Party of Four
Release Date: November 13, 2020
Label: Motéma Music
Party of Four is the sophomore release from renowned vocal jazz quartet The Royal Bopsters. This twelve-track venture, which follows up their critically acclaimed 2015 debut, celebrates both the proud history and the bright future of vocal jazz. A hard-swinging amalgam of vocal virtuosity, electrifying group chemistry, and masterful arranging, Party of Four displays the group’s stunning facility to swing deeply and sing passionately while navigating incredibly precise four-part harmonies.
A master class in the art of vocal jazz and vocalese, Party of Four demonstrates the dazzling possibilities of four voices coming together as one. Bopsters Amy London, Dylan Pramuk, Pete McGuinness, and the late Holli Ross (to whom the album is dedicated) are joined by guest lead vocalists, NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan (91 years young) who delivers a delightful rendition of “Lucky to Be Me” and NEA Jazz Master Bob Dorough, whose humorous recording of his classic “Baby, You Should Know It” became one of his final recordings when he sadly passed in 2018. GRAMMY®-winning bassist and jazz personality Christian McBride also guests on bass for two strong tracks.
Party of Four follows up The Royal Bopsters’ debut release – The Royal Bopsters Project – which was an unprecedented vocal jazz summit featuring five of history’s most celebrated vocal bop innovators and monarchs: Mark Murphy, Jon Hendricks, Sheila Jordan, Bob Dorough and Annie Ross. The album was proclaimed “Extraordinary.” by Downbeat (4.5 stars), “A priceless landmark” by Jazz Times (Best Albums of 2015), and “A magnum opus of jazz and song” by WBGO Radio. Party of Four, with liner notes by WBGO’s Michael Bourne, builds on that solid foundation and is poised to become one of the defining jazz vocal albums of the year.
Cited as “expert practitioners of vocalese” in The New Yorker, The Royal Bopsters celebrated their first release with a star-studded, sold-out week-long residency at New York’s iconic Birdland Jazz Club with guests Annie Ross, John Hendricks and Bob Dorough. Darmon Meader, of the New York Voices, sang tenor on the first album, and then soon after the Birdland show Pete McGuinness, a three-time GRAMMY®-nominated arranger, stepped into the tenor chair for the group. Party of Four – the title penned by Holli Ross – began to take shape as Pete and Dylan brought additional arrangements to the group in 2016. The new music shone, and seeds were planted for the ensemble’s sensational second chapter. NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan, who began her career singing with Charlie Parker, and who now, with the passing of Annie Ross this July, has become the reigning Queen Matriarch of Vocal Bop, has commented “The Bopsters are my favorite vocal group.” The love is mutual, and The Bopsters include Sheila as a guest in their live shows wherever possible. Dorough, who is most famous for writing Schoolhouse Rock, also guested frequently until his sudden death in 2018. He and Annie, as well as Mark Murphy, are all much loved and sorely missed by the Bopsters.
Each Royal Bopster is a renowned jazz educator, and collectively they instruct at the entire gamut of excellent jazz programs in the NYC area: The New School (London was a founder of the program), NYU, William Paterson, Manhattan School of Music, Montclair State, City College, Hofstra and Jazz House Kids (where London & Pramuk teach and co-created their Vocal Academy). The group’s vast collective knowledge of the history and technique of the artform of vocal jazz shines through on every note.
Party of Four offers audiences a jubilant recognition of multiple generations of architects and proud purveyors of the vocal jazz art form. Dedicated to Bopster Holli Wasser Ross, the album is a resounding celebration of life, rhythm, harmony and tradition at a time when the world can definitely use a little cheering up.
The album will be released on November 13th to coincide with the weekend of Holli Ross’s 64th birthday on November 16th and Sheila Jordan’s birthday November 18. Two singles will be released before the album; “But Not for Me” on September 18th, and “Cuando Te Vea” with lyrics and lead vocals by Holli Ross, on October 16th.
More About the Bopsters and Party of Four
Swinging soprano Amy London has been a vocal mainstay in New York City since the 1980s. She sang lead in the vocal quartet in the 6 Tony Award-winning and GRAMMY®-nominated City of Angels on Broadway for three years, has released four critically acclaimed solo albums and is the vocalist on Jim Snidero’s Jazz Conceptions and Scholastic’s DVD Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa. A renowned vocal jazz educator, London is faculty at New School, Hofstra, City College and Jazz House Kids, and has directed vocal jazz camps worldwide. She is also noted as an influential instructor for award-winning vocalists Jazzmeia Horn, Brianna Thomas and Jose James.
Holli Ross, a brilliant alto, who was sought after as an instructor (20 years as Hofstra U voice faculty) and vocal therapist, had a 30-year vocal harmony pedigree, singing with the groups String of Pearls and Mad Romance. She penned the published lyrics to “Boplicity (Bebop Lives),” a hit for Mark Murphy, as well as setting lyrics to Sarah Vaughan’s “'I Have Waited So Long,” recorded by Janis Siegel with the Count Basie Orchestra. Party of Four is dedicated to the memory of Holli, who finally succumbed after a valiant three year battle with cancer in May of 2020.
Stunning improviser and three-time GRAMMY®-nominated arranger Pete McGuinness, the newest group member, has long been a presence on the New York jazz scene. Pete is an award-winning jazz vocalist (semifinals: Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition; first prize: NYC Jazzmobile Vocal Contest), trombonist and leader of his own big band. His innovative arrangement chops can be heard on four tracks on the new album. Pete is also full-time Professor of Jazz Arranging at William Paterson U.
Dylan Pramuk, singing bass, who first connected with London as a student at the New School, has since gained a Masters Degree in Vocal Jazz and now teaches at NYU, City College, Montclair State U and Jazz House Kids. It was a shared passion for Lambert, Hendricks and Ross that led London, Pramuk and Ross to found The Royal Bopsters in 2012. Pramuk arranged seven of the tracks on the album, bringing a strong talent for writing and a flair for the dramatic to the stage.
The Bopsters’ band, featuring Steve Schmidt (piano), Cameron Brown (bass), Steve Williams (drums) and Steven Kroon (percussion), is also key to the hard-swinging power of the group’s sound on the album.
"Close harmony vocalese four-piece with guests in tow The Royal Bopsters know how to place the emphasis on vintage vocal jazz fun and uphold the label's finest traditions." Track feature here.
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
"They don't let their predecessors down but come up with harmonies that are rich and full and arrangements that are as multi-textured as a vanilla layer cake and twice as tasty." Review here.
"When it comes to group jazz singing and the art of vocalese, The Royal Bopsters are keepers of the flame." Full feature with Amy London here.
LONDON JAZZ NEWS
"The album is dramatic, multi-layered and full of intimate, shifting, four-part harmonies drawing eclectic inspiration from (and paying due homage to) many masters of the jazz tradition." Read the full review here.
THE ARTS FUSE
"This recording displays a mastery of the techniques of the jazz vocal group genre: part and contrapuntal singing, ringing harmonies, well-arranged scat, solo scat and vocalese (writing words to jazz tunes and solos)." Read the full review here.
"The Bopsters have been enjoying great success in the past few years with their previous, acclaimed CD and at the Newport Jazz Festival. All accolades are richly deserved if this record is anything to go by. The four voices combine smoothly to produce some startlingly rich and fluid jazz singing." Read the full review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"This is a historic album with a uniquely selective repertoire that shows us the amazing vocal versatility of these four gifted singers and their featured arrangers." Read the review here.
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"This hip and polished quartet is cut from the same cloth as vocalese groups of yore. But don’t mistake this for a retro act. Thanks to skillful hands and voices, that cloth has now been embroidered with the entire history of the music." Read the review in the Jan/Feb 2021 issue of the New York City Jazz Record