His 75th birthday party will feature Wynton Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, and more

By Will Friedwald
Updated September 20, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

Jon Hendricks erupts into laughter — at his own jokes. Yet he comes off as irrepressibly joyful, not congratulatory. Much the same, the gigantic 75th-birthday party he’s throwing for himself at New York City’s Lincoln Center on Sept. 16 won’t be a gala ego-fest. ”I’m just gonna talk and let great artists take over,” Hendricks says. Humility aside, Hendricks has been jazz’s top singer-songwriter for over 40 years. (TIME magazine called him ”the James Joyce of jive.”) And his all-star birthday fete — featuring, among others, Wynton Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, Frank Foster, Al Jarreau, and James Moody — is not just a culmination of his accomplishments but the signal event of a full-blown Hendricks renaissance. Five days after Lincoln Center he’ll be in Monterey, Calif., mounting a 35th-anniversary revival of his show Evolution of the Blues. In October, he tours France as the writer and host of Whisper Not, based on music by his longtime collaborator Benny Golson. Columbia is planning to reissue the albums Hendricks made with Dave Lambert and Annie Ross for that label. And in January, he’ll start touring with Marsalis. ”Gotta build that resume,” Hendricks says, bursting into a laugh.