Singer Amy London has not only assembled a group of new vocalese singers, but also invited five of the legendary artists of that genre, probably the last five still alive. What Lambert, Hendricks & Ross started in the 50s, is what Amy London, Darmon Meader (of the New York Voices), Dylan Pramuk, and Holli Ross are keeping alive today. The Gigi Gryce composition “Music In The Air (Wildwood)” with lyrics by Jon Hendricks, starts off the album in a swinging mood. And the 93 year old Jon (turning 94 next week) is featured here with his signature, still supreme voice.
And Freddie Hubbard‘s “Red Clay”, with lyrics by Mark Murphy turned into “On The Red Clay”, is graced by the master himself. Mark and his singing/speaking voice (Mark is now 83) and his unusual scatting underscore the otherwise pretty funky arrangement which also boasts with some neat group vocals. Two Horace Silver compositions are included here: the immortal “Peace” features the equally immortal, now 86 year old Sheila Jordan. She sounds wonderfully fragile and is still so deep in the lyric and your perfect storyteller. Her longtime partner Cameron Brown plays a melodic bass solo on the track. The other Silver tune is “Senor Blues”, where Mark Murphy, who has recorded the song several times (check his 1963 LP “That’s How I Love The Blues”), masters this gem with panache and wit.
There is more Gigy Gryce here (“Basheer, The Snake And The Mirror”) where Dylan really convinces and is a nice discovery with a strong bass vocal perfectly complementing the girls on alto and soprano and Darmon on tenor. The tempo changes to a light and airy Latin groove on the standard “Invitation” where Darmon is the arranger and the warm soloist. A nice one! The track later catches fire.
Dylan also arranged the Charlie Parker classic “Chasin’ The Bird”. Mark is reading an excerpt from Jack Kerouac‘s “On The Road” on this one. And there are more special guests here: Annie Ross (now 85), the other member of the original Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, who is still playing regularly at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Room on 22nd Street, does her signature tune “Music Is Forever”. I just adore her, period. And Bob Dorough, the 91 year old bebop and jazz singer, songwriter, and composer who wrote so many classics, is heard on his own “Nothing Like You Has Ever Been Seen Before”. Music really keeps you young – it is unbelievable how good he sounds at that young age.
We also get Miles Davis (“Boplicity”) with Mark again, a Roger Kellaway composition (“Just Step Right Up”) featuring the hilarious alto of Holli, and a tune that Annie wrote in the 40s and here gets a new treatment by Amy: “Let’s Fly” is the very fitting album closer because fly is the theme here as not only all the vocalists are in top form, but the arrangements hold some nice surprises as well. And with longtime Shirley Horn drummer Steve Williams, pianist Steve Schmidt, percussionist Steven Kroon, and guest guitarist Roni Ben-Hur, they all have adequate backing here.
The Royal Bopsters Project will come to New York’s Birdland next week Tuesday to Saturday with special guests Sheila Jordan, Andy Bey, Jon Hendricks, and Annie Ross.