The Four Freshmen Keep Harmonizing After 63 Years
The latest incarnation of the world-famous jazz vocal group and band will put on four shows this weekend at Nighttown
The Four Freshmen, the world-famous vocal group that formed at Butler University in Indiana 63 years ago, will perform at four shows at Nighttown this weekend.
Pretty impressive for four guys who must be in their 80s by now, right? Not so. The fellows, who grace the Nighttown stage, are much younger than that, but the unmistakable Freshmen sound remains the same.
The quartet’s current lineup features singer-musicians who hadn’t been born when the original Four Freshmen released a series of hit records in the 1950s that established their reputation for unique jazz harmonies. Those recordings include It’s a Blue World (1952), Mood Indigo (1954), Day By Day (1955) and Graduation Day (1956).
“I’m the old man of the group, and I’m 40 years old,” said drummer/bass singer Bob Ferreira by phone Tuesday from Rushville, OH, where the guys were rehearsing new material on a day off from their concert tour. “The group started in 1948. Whenever a member would leave, somebody would come in and replace him. I joined in 1992 when the last original member retired.”
This latest incarnation of the group — the 22nd — has been together since 2001, when Curtis Calderon (second vocals, trumpet/flugelhorn) joined.
Vince Johnson, who joined in 1999, sings baritone and plays string bass and trombone.
Brian Eichenberger (lead singer, guitarist, musical arranger) became one of the Freshmen in 1996. His wife’s family is from the Cleveland area, said Ferreira.
Ferreira first heard the Freshmen as a high school student attending a jazz festival.
“They were the guest artists,” Ferreira said. “I was kind of blown away.”
Brian Wilson, who like Ferreira fell under the spell of the Freshmen as a teenager, founded The Beach Boys, who mimicked Freshmen harmonies but with a rock-'n'-roll sensibility. Wilson continues to mention the Freshmen’s influence on his music and sometimes attends the group's concerts.
Ferreira and company put together a version of Surfer Girl to perform for him at one show as a nod back. They’ve posted a video of that and other songs on The Four Freshmen website. The guys also include the Beach Boys song in some of their shows.
“People love it,” Ferreira said. “What we do is more of a jazz-based sound, so when they hear Surfer Girl, it surprises them. It’s about the harmony.”
The group keeps adding classics from the Great American Songbook to include in its set lists. The guys also continue to record CDs, which are listed on their website.
“Mainly what we do is Freshmen arrangements,” Ferreira said. “We don’t consider ourselves a nostalgia act. We’re not just relying on the hits of the past to bring people through the door. They’re going to realize that the four of us are helping them create new memories and new sounds in the tradition of the Four Freshmen.”
The Four Freshmen will put on shows at 6 and 8 p.m. today and Saturday at Nighttown, 12387 Cedar Road. Admission: $30.