Dave Lambert (American jazz vocalist)

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For the English guitarist who plays for Strawbs, see Dave Lambert (English musician).
Dave Lambert
Dave Lambert, New York, N.Y., ca. July 1947 (William P. Gottlieb 05551).jpg
Dave Lambert, New York, ca. July 1947.
Photograph by William P. Gottlieb
Background information
Birth name David Alden Lambert
Born (1917-06-19)June 19, 1917
Boston, Massachusetts United States
Died October 3, 1966(1966-10-03) (aged 49)
Connecticut Turnpike, Connecticut United States
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, Songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1940s–1966
Associated acts Lambert, Hendricks & Ross

David Alden Lambert (June 19, 1917 - October 3, 1966) was an American jazz lyricist, singer, and an originator of vocalese. He was best known as a member of the trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. Lambert spent a lifetime experimenting with the human voice, and expanding the possibilities of its use within jazz.

Lambert's band debut was with Johnny Long's Orchestra in the early 1940s.[1] Along with early partner Buddy Stewart, Lambert successfully brought singing into modern jazz (concurrently with Ella Fitzgerald). In the late 1950s he teamed with wordsmith and vocalese pioneer Jon Hendricks. The two were later joined by Annie Ross, and the lineup was a hit.

After Ross left the group in 1962, Lambert and Hendricks went on without her by using various replacements, but the partnership ended in 1964. He then formed a quintet called "Lambert & Co." which included the multiple voices of Mary Vonnie, Leslie Dorsey, David Lucas, and Sarah Boatner. The group auditioned for RCA, and the process was documented by filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker in a 15-minute documentary entitled Audition at RCA,[2][3] and the Charlie Parker with Voices. It was one of the last images recorded of Lambert, as several months later he was killed in a highway incident.


Accounts of Lambert's death vary slightly in details. It is established that he was on the Connecticut Turnpike[4] and that a flat tire was involved and that he was struck by a tractor-trailer truck driven by Floyd H. Demby in the early hours of October 3, 1966. The disabled vehicle was not fully off the roadway and its lights were turned off. In addition, an account on D. A. Pennebaker's website states that the accident was on the Merritt Parkway.[5]

Some accounts mention that Richard Hillman was killed in the same incident.[6][7] Newspaper stories differ about whose vehicle was disabled. Jet magazine's account says it was a panel truck owned by Lambert.[8] Jon Hendricks' telling of the story says that Lambert was a compulsive do-gooder and that he had stopped to assist another motorist.[9] The newspaper follow-up stories say that Demby was not at fault and that Lambert and Hillman were in the roadway when they were struck.


  1. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Dave Lambert: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 9 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Pennebaker, D.A. (1964). "The Audition". Pennebaker Hegedus Films. Archived from the original (video) on July 21, 2011. Retrieved June 4, 2011. 
  3. ^ Myers, Marc (May 31, 2011). "Dave Lambert: Audition at RCA". JazzWax. Retrieved June 4, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Jazz Musician Dave Lambert Killed In Crash". Toledo Blade. 
  5. ^ "Lambert & Co.". 
  6. ^ "Truck Driver Cleared In Turnpike Fatalities", The Norwalk Hour, November 5, 1966.
  7. ^ "Rules Singer's Death Unavoidable", The Day, November 5, 1966.
  8. ^ "Dave Lambert, Companion Killed In Auto Mishap", Jet, October 20, 1966, p. 65.
  9. ^ Gene Lees, "Jon Hendricks & Annie Ross: Together Alone", Jazz Times, May 1999.

Will Friedwald (1996). Jazz Singing: America's Great Voices From Bessie Smith To Bebop And Beyond. Perseus Publishing. ISBN 0-306-80712-2.