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Lambert, Hendricks & Ross

The premier jazz vocal act of all time, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross revolutionized vocal music during the late '50s and early '60s by turning away from the increasingly crossover slant of the pop world to embrace the sheer musicianship inherent in vocal jazz. Applying the concepts of bop harmonies to swinging vocal music, the trio transformed dozens of instrumental jazz classics into their own songs, taking scat solos and trading off licks and riffs in precisely the same fashion of their favorite improvising musicians. Vocal arranger Dave Lambert wrote dense clusters of vocal lines for each voice that, while only distantly related, came together splendidly. Jon Hendricks wrote clever, witty lyrics to jazz standards like “Summertime,” “Moanin'” and “Twisted,” and Ross proved to be one of the strongest, most dexterous female voices in the history of jazz vocals. Together Lambert, Hendricks & Ross paved the way for vocal groups like Manhattan Transfer while earning respect from vocalists and jazz musicians alike.

The act grew out of apartment jam sessions by Lambert, a pioneering arranger and bop vocalist who had appeared in groups led by Gene Krupa and Buddy Stewart — though he had also gained infamy leading a vocal choir on the disastrous “Charlie Parker with Voices” session recorded for Clef in 1953. That same year, Lambert met Jon Hendricks, who had similar vocal specialties that extended to lyrical changes. The pair debuted with a radically reworked version of “Four Brothers,” which featured lyrics by Hendricks and note-for-note duplications of the original solos by Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Stan Getz and Woody Herman. They recorded a few other sides but were unsuccessful until a chance meeting with solo vocalist Annie Ross hit paydirt.

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