Bill Henderson – Live at the Kennedy Center
(Web-Only Jazz – 2006)
by Mark Ruffin
In the late 50s and early 60s Bill Henderson lived in the shadow of the late Joe Williams. Then the Chicago-born singer moved to L.A. and became a prolific character actor, appearing in over 50 movies and almost as many TV series. Some folks might remember him as gym teacher Chet Kinkaid’s neighbor on one of the early Bill Cosby shows. Some may know him from his very funny role in “White Men Can’t Jump.” But, while he never became a star as an actor, this record proved that he should have become a star as a singer.
At 80 years old, Live at the Kennedy Center is a stirring comeback for one of the most underrated singers in jazz history. Of course his acting skills come in handy when he quips lines like “if this goes badly, my name is John Hendricks”, but it is his vocal style that makes this performance work. Whether he’s singing standards, or Ellington tunes (of which there are a lot) or just singing a blues tune like BB’s “Never Make Your Move Too Soon” this guy has all the power, intonation and pizzazz of any male jazz singer alive.