Jon Hendricks carved his reputation in the late '50s along with Dave Lambert and Annie Ross. It was as a vocal ensemble that they made their mark, setting Hendricks' lyrics to jazz classics. The group's deft, angular phrases and accelerated lyrics were delivered in a widely declamatory style.
After many years in theater, Hendricks is visible again with companions closer to home -- his wife, Judity, daughter Michelle and Bobby McFerrin. His show, at the Cellar Door through Saturday, aims for the old ebullient broth, but falls short. Judity Hendricks is no Annie Ross, her voice too strident and without charm. Michelle Hendricks, shining on a pumping "Green Dolphin Street," showed great promise as did McFerrin in his brief solo stint.
As for Jon Hendricks, he sang too little of his good material and spent too much time outside the protection of the group. His solo segment exposed a voice that may still scat with the best of them, but falters on and flattens the standard melody. At their best, as on Billy Strayhorn's "Take the A Train," the Hendricks clan jumped for joy but that exuberance was lost in the shuffle of too similar material.
Riveting echoes of an earlier jazz era were delivered by openers guitarist Guy Van Duser and clarinetist Billy Novick. They've studied older jazz roots from before the '30s -- and transformed those ancient energies into contemporary joys.