Fresh music

  • Sharon Wootton<br>For the Enterprise
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 10:05am

Celebrate jazz, young musicians and the Four Freshmen on May 28 at the fifth annual Edmonds Jazz Connection.

Portions of the proceeds from the event will benefit the Burned Children Recovery Foundation, a national organization based in Snohomish County.

Before the Beach Boys, Manhattan Transfer, Mamas and Pappas, Spanky &Our Gang or The Lettermen, the pioneers of a new style of close-harmony vocals had taken the stage.

The Four Freshmen, known as Hal’s Harmonizers in 1948 in Indiana, started as a barbershop quartet before moving to a more jazz-oriented song list.

The next name change has lasted more than 50 years, as has their style of improvised jazz/pop vocal harmony, even though the faces and voices have changed many times.

While the musical world changed around them, the Four Freshmen stayed true to their vision.

Bandleader Stan Kenton heard them sing in 1950 and arranged an audition with Capitol Records. The Freshmen’s first hit single was “It’s a Blue World” (1952), followed by “Mood Indigo,” “Day by Day,” and “Graduation Day.”

Although other styles dominated the music scene, the quartet continued to enjoy steady work and sales that now total more than 2 million albums.

In a Jazz Times reader poll, the Four Freshmen were voted Best Vocal Group in 2003; and earned a similar honor from Downbeat Magazine in 2004, evidence that their musical approach has won over generations of fans.

The quartet has delivered 41 albums and more than 70 top-selling singles, and earned six Grammy nominations.

They’ve has done it by bringing in new voices dedicated to the original style (20-some variations of the quartet). The last original member, Bob Flanigan, retired in 1992.

The current lineup started playing together in September 2001: Brian Eichenberger, Curtis Calderon, Bob Ferreira and Vince Johnson, ages 24 to 31.

Lead singer Eichenberger, only the third lead in the history of the Freshmen, also plays three instruments.

“I really enjoy singing the melody. I don’t have to think about the notes as much, and I can put more focus on phrasing, tempos and the overall sound we make,” Eichenberger said.

Calderon is the newest voice. The trumpet and flugelhorn player has also been featured on a dozen CDs, and performed with Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Hoagy Carmichael Centennial Band.

Johnson sings baritone; plays guitar, trombone and bass; and brings a master’s degree in jazz studies to the group.

He said he has all The Four Freshmen albums and practically wore out the “Voices in Love” cassette while driving around during his school days.

The bass voice, Ferreira, plays drums and flugelhorn. Formerly a Seattle resident, he joined the group in 1992. Ferreira studied with ex-Freshmen Kirk Marcy at Edmonds Community College and performed with Soundsation.

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