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Jazz greats Hendricks and Ross reunited after 20 years

The ``Lambert, Hendricks and Ross Songbook'' -- what a reunion! After over 20 years of not singing together, Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross were reunited for a week here at the Blue Note, a popular Greenwich Village jazz club. Their opening night was sheer swinging, cooking joy as they ran down all their greatest numbers, from ``Jumpin' at the Woodside'' to ``Goin' to Chicago'' to ``One O'Clock Jump'' to a faster-than-ever ``Cloudburst.'' Hendricks was in top form, glowing with humor and, as always, displaying the hottest ``scat chops'' in the business. And Annie Ross -- well, what can you say about the hippest lady of jazz bop singing? After a long stint in England as an actress, she has suddenly reappeared with every inflection, every nuance, and every word of the fiendishly complicated Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross repertoire intact. Never mind if she had to move a few parts down an octave and her vibrato is a little wide. Who cares? N obody can swing this stuff the way Annie could, and still can.

The late Dave Lambert's role was filled by the talented young Bruce Scott, whose voice bears some resemblance to Lambert's. His style is definitely his own, though, and it added a spicy dimension to the established LH&R sound. Scott knows this material inside and out, and he's a formidable scatter, too. The trio was ably backed by David Leonhardt on piano, Clifford Barbaro on drums, and Murray Wall on bass.

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Hendricks did one of the best solo spots I've heard him do, and one of the most demanding. He chose two lesser-known and wonderfully eccentric Thelonious Monk tunes to which he had written lyrics: ``Crepuscule With Nellie,'' a ballad that Monk wrote for his wife; and ``Jackie-ing,'' a quirky little melody inspired by his dancing niece. Hendricks's performance captured perfectly the mood of both of these unusual and difficult pieces.

But the pi`ece de r'esistance of the evening was Annie Ross's signature song, ``Twisted,'' about a not-so-crazy lady who puts one over on her analyst. She dished it up with subtle wit, style, and phrasing that would make a lesser singer want to scratch it from her repertoire forever.

It's easy to understand why, at the height of their career, Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross were dubbed by Time magazine ``the James Joyces of jazz.'' They earned the title with their lickety-split delivery of hip and humorous stream-of-consciousness observations on life. It was a one-of-a-kind group that imitators have never been able to touch. Jon Hendricks, with various friends and members of his family, have been keeping the flame alive, performing both the LH&R material and some newer pieces. But to h ave Annie back was something quite special. More, please!

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