London, Meader, Pramuk & Ross: The Royal Bopsters Project

Five years in gestation, this boplicious project serves as both the introduction to a terrific new vocal foursome and as a living tribute to five of jazz singing’s foremost pioneers. The idea was ignited in 2010 when Amy London and Holli Ross paid a visit to an ailing Mark Murphy. A year later, they invited Murphy to join them for a concert at the New School in New York City. (Also featured was a student vocal choir including Dylan Pramuk.) The concert’s success sparked an album concept. With London’s soprano, Ross’ alto and Pramuk’s bass, all they needed was an alto. Enter New York Voices’ Darmon Meader. Then, they reasoned, since their intent was to honor the vocalese greats, why not invite those legends along? So, in addition to Murphy, Jon Hendricks, Sheila Jordan, Bob Dorough and Annie Ross joined the fray.

From the first four bars of “Music in the Air (Wildwood),” it’s clear that the four younger participants are as tight, as smooth and as creatively dynamic as the Voices or Manhattan Transfer. Their choice of material is nothing short of perfection: classics like the elder Ross’ “Let’s Fly” and Dorough’s “Nothing Like You Has Ever Been Seen Before” alongside sage re-workings of “Basheer’s Dream,” “Chasin’ the Bird,” “Boplicity” and “Red Clay,” plus a double-dip into the Horace Silver songbook for “Peace” and “Señor Blues.”

If this disc featured just the quartet, it would be sensational. The addition of the icons, showcased once each (with Murphy provided wider presence) and all in remarkably fine form, escalates it from valuable to priceless, from piquant to landmark.