I love to eat and food is my favorite part of the holidays. There are events that I will only RSVP for so long as there is free food and drinks, the option to take home a doggy bag is a bonus. Still the promise of food was not necessary to get me to accept an invitation, along with creative artist Beau McCall, to the home of legendary jazz figure, Jon Hendricks.
Hendricks has been working on a range of projects including a vocalese cover of Miles Davis’ “Miles Ahead” album, a memoir and a choir book. The latter two projects are the results of not only his passion but also his newfound business acumen. “I am an artist but I’m beginning to think like a businessman ‘cause I just turned 90,” he says. “When you’re selling something you have to find your market and I know I got the market.” In order for icons like Hendricks to deservedly become household names they need to extend their brands, preferably without yet another reality show.
What I couldn’t help getting another one of was the assortment of cheeses and a scoop of the flavorful homemade cranberry sauce, which the lovely Mrs. Judith Hendricks provided for us. As I scarfed down the hors d’oeuvres, Mr. Hendricks shared his thoughts on the state of jazz. “It is in terrible shape. There is no cultural awareness. I’ve heard jazz radio without one Duke Ellington or Fats Waller record. They are playing only the newest guy,” he notes.
Hendricks expressed his hopes that Jazz at Lincoln Center will develop an orchestra of senior jazz musicians to help balance the contemporary scene. Plus he is even willing to tour with such an orchestra once it is developed. “These cats from Lionel Hampton and Duke Ellington’s band are brilliant. They should be put in an orchestra and put to work playing.”
Another institution that Hendricks holds to high standards is The National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Mr. Hendricks believes that the museum’s forthcoming expansion will increase the public’s awareness of jazz. “It’s gonna make a lot of people aware of something that’s been right under their nose all the time but which they never were.”
Placed right under my nose was a warm and toasty apple strudel. I immediately reached for it, my plate already full. Yet it was Hendricks’ plate that fascinated me with his abundance of projects, ideas and plans. I asked him how he manages to do it all at his age to which he replied, “I am interested in life itself, the universe and knowledge. So my mind is always open.” With that, I took a bite out of my apple strudel, nodded my head and realized that having an insatiable appetite for food, art, culture and wisdom was all I would need to be as engaged with life as Mr. Hendricks by the time I turn 90.
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