Jon Hendricks

Evolution of the Blues Song

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Of the many projects Hendricks has been involved in, this is his crowning glory. It toured the country as a stage production, depicting the history of African-American roots music, from spirituals and field hollers to blues, gospel, and jazz. Hendricks recites signposts of the musical progression in rhyme, and singing here and there. Pony Poindexter plays a little tenor sax and talks about New Orleans, while Ike Isaacs' trio backs the singers. An intro by Hendricks postulates that adults "have their minds made up, don't confuse 'em with facts" and refers to musicians as "metaphysicians." This is one of several pieces where the chorus hums while Hendricks tells his tale. African drums, serving as a call-and-response device, inform "Amo." A slave story told in a Harry Belafonte style by Hendricks accents "Some Stopped on De Way," while a spiritual rap precedes "Swing Low Sweet Chariot." Big Miller digs into a personalized gospel blues, "If I Had My Share," and Witherspoon belts "Please Send Me Someone to Love" like only he can. A highlight is Miller's "Sufferin' Blues," followed by Hendricks' field holler "Aw, Gal" and Witherspoon's groovin' "C.C. (Circuit) Rider." Poindexter returns on "Jumpin' With Symphony Sid," which includes references to jazz and Lester Young. The program ends with Witherspoon's brilliant rendition of Big Bill Broonzy's "Sun Gonna Shine," Hendricks' downtrodden take on "W.P.A. Blues," and Big Miller's turn on "Motherless Child." If you'd like to get your children -- or uninformed grown-ups -- a quick, painless, enjoyable lesson in the last 100+ years of our American classical heritage, this is a perfect primer.

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