A Musical Dedication to Jon Hendricks: The Poet Laureate of Jazz

Indeed, if larks could record CDs, they'd sound like Michele. She has a style that is joyful and soulful, her love for jazz music emanates through her scats and song phrasing.

                                   -- Asha Brodie, JazzReview.com


Michele Thomas - vocals
Alyssa Allgood - vocals
Jeff Hedberg - vocals and trumpet
Kevin Fort - piano 
Clark Sommers - bass 
Darren Scorza - drums 

Michele Thomas in a Musical Dedication to Jon Hendricks: The Poet Laureate of Jazz

Jazz vocalist Michele Thomas will present a concert of music exploring the lyric writing of the late great Jon Hendricks.  The performance will reflect on the history of jazz vocalese and Mr. Hendricks’ elevation of the art form as well as fresh arrangements of some of his most classic pieces and some of his lesser known compositions. Joining Michele will also be special guests vocalists Alyssa Allgood and Jeff Hedberg of the C'11 Dek-tette lending their voices to a harmonious and scat filled evening! The audience will also be provided with an interactive program of the concert music online where they can further discover the melange of composers, improvisers and recordings that Jon Hendricks drew his inspiration from.

Hendricks, who is famous for perfecting the art of "vocalese",  is known for his extended lyrical contributions to a plethora of jazz classics such as “Summertime”, “Centerpiece” & “Moanin'’” as well as the songs that are mainstay to the vocal jazz performance idiom like "Social Call" and "One Note Samba" - not to mention some of his lesser known originals like "Minor Catastrophe" and the uplifting, "Love Makes the World Go Round".

From Jon Hendricks biography...
"Jon Hendricks is not only one of the world's favorite jazz vocalists, but is widely considered to be the "Father of Vocalese", the greatest innovator of the art form. Vocalese is the art of setting lyrics to recorded jazz instrumental standards (such as the big band arrangements of Duke Ellington and Count Basie), then arranging voices to sing the parts of the instruments. Thus is created an entirely new form of the work, one that tells a lyrically interesting story while retaining the integrity of the music. Hendricks is the only person many jazz greats have allowed to lyricize their music, for no one writes hipper, wittier, or more touching words, while extracting from a tune the emotions intended by the composer, more sympathetically than Hendricks. For his work as a lyricist, jazz critic and historian Leonard Feather called him the "Poet Laureate of Jazz" while Time dubbed him the "James Joyce of Jive."

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Michele Thomas is an American jazz musician, vocalist and songwriter from Chicago, IL.  Her talents have carried her through a fantastic array of experiences within the massive world that is, music.  By combining her gospel background with her deep love of jazz and appreciation for contemporary soul and R&B, Michele has crafted a sound that doesn’t conform to one genre, but instead evokes the elements that make these genres so dynamic.


Michele’s life and career began and grew in Chicago, Illinois.  Born the daughter of a Pentecostal preacher in the Church of God In Christ, Michele grew up on a steady diet of gospel music. The impact it had on her, even at a young age was profound. These feelings, along with her innate talents, led to Michele arranging and conducting her church’s choir while she was still in her preteen years.  Michele would eventually attend North Park University, graduating with a B.A. in music, and establishing their gospel choir. 


The development of her love and talent for jazz began at a local tavern named Big Joe’s 2 & 6 Pub and would later extend to the Green Mill amongst other choice Chicago venues. These extremely well regarded performances would help her to found her own vocal studio, where Michele has the wonderful opportunity to help mentor and train young voices to reach their individual heights. 


Michele’s performances, like her music itself, are deep and emotional. Not only does she blend the genres of jazz and soul together with elements of folk, but she uses her voice and songwriting to stir something deeper within people, causing them to engage the lyric and the beat simultaneously. Michele has been compared to other powerful African-American singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, and Anita Baker, but she also draws inspiration from Kurt Elling, James Taylor, and Sting. 


In between all of her teaching, mentoring, and performing, Michele has found time to record two albums with the help of some of Chicago’s finest session musicians. Her first album, I’ll Take Romance, was very well received with Asha Brodie of JazzReview.com stating:


“Indeed, if larks could record CDs, they'd sound like Michele. She has a style that is joyful and soulful, her love for jazz music emanates through her scats and song phrasing.”


Messenger is Michele’s most recent album and serves as a tribute to Stevie Wonder and the power of his music and songwriting. It also continues to display Michele’s talent for outfitting existing jazz instrumentals with original lyrics, paying homage to the composers and musicians she admires, while simultaneously displaying her vocal flare like on her rendition of Hal Galper’s“Triple Play.”


Whether in her studio, on stage in a jazz club, or in the recording booth, Michele Thomas brings an amazing level of energy, passion, and emotion to everything she does. Music is a powerful force whether it draws inspiration from gospel or the shared human experience and Michele Thomas aims to channel that energy into your heart, mind, and soul.




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Chicago, Illinois 60611


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