Michele Hendricks at Sunset Jazz Club

Patricia Myers By

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Michele Hendricks Quintet
Sunset Jazz Club
American Jazz Festiv' Halles
Paris, France
July 29, 2016

Jazz singer Michele Hendricks showcased a stunning combination of genetics and decades of performance experience, her energized sounds replicating horn solos via inventive vocalese and hip scat segments. She led a European-based quartet during two nights of the 25th annual summer "American Jazz Festiv' Halles" in the narrow low-ceilinged Sunset Jazz Club that has presented live jazz in Paris since 1981. Although tribute concerts (hommages) are frequent at this and other venues here, Ms. Hendricks performed on her own recognizance, proving worthy during a dynamic opening-night set of ever-shifting modes.

Her seemingly effortless style emulated the legacy of her father, Jon Hendricks, 94, an originator of the kind of jazz singing that creates horn sounds from instrumental charts. Her incredible bop-scat agility imbued the first two choruses of the internationally familiar "I Got Rhythm" that was sparked by a memorable a cappella closing segment. Next was a dramatic straight-ahead rendition of "Love for Sale," pianist Arnaud Mattel underscoring the plaintive lyrics that concluded with another of her scat segments. She also straight-sang the lyrics of "Day In, Day Out" before launching more vocalese for a super-charged second chorus, as French tenor saxophonist Olivier Temime injected his muscular zest, Mattel added angular moves, and the raceway pace was sustained by bassist Bruno Rousselet and drummer Philippe Soirat.

Hendricks then introduced two of her originals. "Don't Give Your Soul Away" featured a dramatic vocal-sax "duel-et" of intentional dissonance in a series of minor moves. The second chart was a major change of pace, "Honk If You Want It" an upbeat rouser that popped with zip and zest. The penultimate selection, "I Fall in Love Too Easily," showcased her ballad chops as she delivered the melancholic lyrics in a lower vocal register for gorgeous effect.

The set closer of "How High the Moon" was a perfect choice, relating to her recently released album, Michele Hendricks (with Tommy Flanagan Trio): A Little Bit Of Ella (Now and Then) (Cristal Records 2016, recorded 1998 in New York). For decades, Ella Fitzgerald's rendition of that jazz hit on her Live in Berlin album (Verve, 1960) has been the pinnacle of scatting, based on Charlie Parker's "Ornithology" (based on "Moon" chord changes). This night, Michele Hendricks was in full command of the chart, her voice becoming a horn with a supple fluidity that matched, if not surpassed, the famous version. It was pure jazz, and absolutely "best of show."

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