The Four Freshmen

Voices and Brass

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The Four Freshmen's career-defining Four Freshmen and Five Trombones (1955) and the burgeoning stereophonic novelty were the impetus behind Voices and Brass. Ken Albers (vocal/trumpet/mellophone/bass), Don Barbour (guitar/vocals), Ross Barbour (vocal/drums), and Bob Flanigan (vocal/trombone/bass) are augmented by a trombone quintet on the right channel and another on the left -- although only half the effort features all ten at once. Dick Reynolds (arranger) and Albers come up with a host of inventive arrangements, highlighting the unique instrumental and vocal union. The striking "Stella By Starlight" opens the affair with a languid tempo, allowing for the respective voices to organically create the melody, as the horns are configured to simultaneously contrast and complement one another. "Route 66" is given a decidedly hip interpretation, boasting a few hot licks from Albers on trumpet and Jimmy Rowles' jazzy piano interjections. The pace is slowed a bit on the sumptuous "I Had the Craziest Dream" as the trombone ensemble is held in check, supplementing the score, yet remarkably steering clear of the singers' way. Equal memorable is Don Barbour's soulful solo on "I'm Glad There Is You," while "Candy" and "Sunday" are comparatively upbeat numbers cut from the same musical cloth. The former stands out with its frisky Latin-tinged persona, while Don Barbour brings the latter to life surrounded by the double trombone onslaught. Concluding the collection is a stunningly beautiful and complex "Autumn Leaves." The a cappella introduction provides listeners a rich and full-bodied example of the multiple layers and distinct harmonic juxtapositions that coalesce into the trademark Four Freshmen sound. In 2004, Collectors' Choice Music teamed up the live Four Freshmen in Person (1958) alongside Voices and Brass on a two-fer CD, restoring both after several decades out of print.