Party of Four
“On a Misty Night/Gipsy”
Following in the footsteps of Lambert, Hendrix and Ross and The Manhattan Transfer, The Royal Bopsters display a dazzling mastery of vocalese, a jazz idiom in which singers fit lyrics to instrumental jazz solos. The group’s latest recording, Party of Four (Motéma), also marks a sad milestone with the passing of alto vocalist Holli Ross (no relation to Annie Ross of L, H & R fame), who lost her battle with cancer earlier this year. Ross is in excellent voice throughout the album’s dozen tracks, blending with fellow Bopsters Amy London, Pete McGuinness and Dylan Pramuk on a set of classic tunes that include entries from Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, George and Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer and Wayne Shorter and Doug Carn. Along the way, they expand the party to include venerable guest vocalists Sheila Jordan and Bob Dorough, as well as bassist Christian McBride, who features on Pramuk’s arrangement of a mash-up of Tadd Dameron’s “On a Misty Night” with Billy Reid’s “Gipsy.” The Bopsters’ silky harmonies and solos on the former mimic the Dameron big band sound, whereas their rendition of the latter makes use of Georgie Fame’s vocalese writing for a Chet Baker trumpet solo. Pianist Steve Schmidt and drummer Steve Williams, as throughout, provide superb rhythmic accompaniment. Party of Four is an excellent and engaging example of vocalese and a fitting tribute to Ross.