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Salute to Joe Williams

The last number of the evening, Williams' signature blues "Everyday," actually featured two Basie bands -- the real one onstage and all the guest singers doing high-spirited vocalese impressions of riffing horn sections. With Hendricks, the high priest of vocalese, on board to supervise, one wonders why there wasn't more of this.

The last number of the evening, Williams’ signature blues “Everyday,” actually featured two Basie bands — the real one onstage and all the guest singers doing high-spirited vocalese impressions of riffing horn sections. With Hendricks, the high priest of vocalese, on board to supervise, one wonders why there wasn’t more of this.

There were other frustrations — only one number by a great group of all-stars anchored by Edison and Red Holloway, not enough of the fluid guitar of Henry Johnson, too much of the extremely mannered Nancy Wilson, whose schmoozy duet with Williams went overboard with the mutual admiration thing. The Basie band was mostly a snooze.

Yet Hendricks — who just joined Williams on Telarc Jazz’s roster — was ebullient in his uptempo numbers, a resonant balladeer (more so at 73 than before) in “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me,” and an unusually poetic emcee. And at 76, Williams still has plenty of punching power and contrasting delicacy in his voice, still a vital life force.

Salute to Joe Williams

(Hollywood Bowl; 17,979 seats; $ 57 top)

  • Production: Presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. Performers: Joe Williams, Jon Hendricks, Carmen Bradford, Bill Henderson, Dianne Reeves, Nancy Wilson, Judith Hendricks, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Red Holloway, Norman Simmons, Henry Johnson, John Clayton, Sherman Ferguson, Count Basie Orchestra directed by Grover Mitchell. Reviewed July 26, 1995. Jon Hendricks said it best: They were there to "honor a great American hero -- while he's still working." Which is poignant, funny and true, for almost all tributes in any idiom these days are for dead (or infirm) masters who would have been astonished by all the deification. And not only is Joe Williams still working, he was a major factor in the two most stunning moments of the whole, long, uneven, starry evening. The first occurred at the close of the first half, when Williams joined Dianne Reeves in a trembling, intense lovefest of a duet on "Tenderly." Add to that trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, who selected and polished each pithy note to a fare-thee-well, and the results had everyone muttering to themselves at intermission.