The Four Freshmen? weren’t they a vocal group from the 1950’s? Aren’t they all over 90 years old now Well, yes . . . and no.
The Four Freshmen were one of the top vocal groups of the 1950s, and formed the bridge between ’40s ensembles like Mel-Tones and harmony-based rock & roll bands such as the Beach Boys as well as groups like Spanky & Our Gang and the Manhattan Transfer.
This remarkable group, based on the sophisticated harmonies of the 1950’s Stan Kenton band, retains its signature sound in a modern incarnation, through some 23 different combinations of personnel.
Here, from Richard Salvucci’s piece on AllAboutJazz.com (“The Four Freshmen: Tradition And Innovation In A New Century”)
Their current incarnation includes Brian Eichenberger (melody voice, acoustic bass,chief vocal arranger and musical director) Stein Malvey (second voice and guitar), Curtis Calderon (third voice and trumpet/flugelhorn), and Bob Ferreira (bass voice and drums), and at twenty two years, the member of longest standing. Ferreira is a link to the original group via Bob Flanigan, a founding member of The Four Freshmen, who retired in 1993 and passed away in 2011.
Part of the group’s continuity comes from long-term stability, even as individual players come and go. The three longest-tenured current members have been in place for an average of fourteen years, which is just about the last time there was a change of personnel. “It’s a level of commitment,” says Bob Ferreira. “To learn and to be able to perform this style of music well is not easy stuff….We’re backing ourselves up instrumentally….We’re singing these real intricate harmonies…We’re trying to entertain at the same time….It’s a [high]level of commitment.” Calderon puts it slightly differently. “It’s very challenging…[because] all four of us are the bandleader, the MC, the backup band—we’re all the lead singer. To execute it flawlessly is the big goal for all of us.”
The video below offers a look at (and listen to) the original group and its modern incarnation: