What do the Gershwins’ “But Not For Me”, Harold Arlen’s “My Shining Hour”, and Tadd Dameron’s “On a Misty Night” have in common? All three songs were on the Royal Bopsters’ Motema Music album, Party of Four, which DownBeat Magazine’s Allen Morrison called “an entertaining gem”, giving it four stars.
When the Royal Bopsters perform at the New Jersey Jazz Society’s Jersey Jazz LIVE! concert at 3 p.m. on December 10 in Madison, NJ, you can be assured that those three tunes will be on the set list. Party of Four was the last Royal Bopsters album to feature founding member Holli Ross, who passed away in May 2020. Jersey Jazz’s Joe Lang called the recording, “a fabulous farewell to a vibrant presence on the New Jersey/New York City jazz scene.”
The Bopsters’ leader, Amy London, said the group will be going into the studio in 2024 to record a new album. One or two pieces from the album will be previewed on December 10 including “I’m Not Sure”, a melody written by Cedar Walton. Bopsters Dylan Pramuk and Pete McGuinness co-arranged it based on a recording by Roy Hargrove. “Dylan wrote the lyrics,” London pointed out, adding that “it’s a very powerful piece about global warming.”
Jeanne O’Connor succeeded Ross in the group, and McGuinness is retiring at the end of the year, so the new recording will feature London, Pramuk, O’Connor, and the newest member, vocalist/soprano saxophonist Danny Bacher.
In 2022, the Bopsters won a Bistro Award for Jazz Artistry and appeared at such venues as Birdland, the William Paterson Jazz Room Series, Nardis Jazz Club in Istanbul, and Jazzland in Vienna. (Photo above from WP concert. From left, Dylan Pramuk, Jeanne O’Connor, Amy London, and Pete McGuinness).
Some other selections likely to be featured at Jersey Jazz LIVE! are “Spring Song”, a composition by McGuinness that London wrote the lyrics for; and “Let’s Fly”, a composition by Annie Ross and David Ball.
London recalled that she brought her music students to see Ross at New York’s Metropolitan Room. “Annie Ross is a legend,” she added, “and the students loved her. It was like a master class. One day, she called me up and said, ‘Come over to my apartment. I have something for you. She handed me this scratchy looking cassette. The writing on it said, ‘Let’s Fly’. She and a guy by the name of David Ball entered a songwriting contest when she was 14 years old and living in Los Angeles. She won, and the prize was that Johnny Mercer and the Pied Pipers would record the song. She gave it to me, and I added a chorus and wrote a contrafact (a new melody over the chord changes) and a lyric. So, we’ll be doing that.”
The Bopsters will be accompanied by a three-piece rhythm section: pianist Will Gorman, bassist Cameron Brown, and drummer Mike Campenni. Gorman, a graduate of William Paterson, studied there with Bill Charlap and Harold Mabern. Brown is a veteran bassist who began his career in the mid-‘60s, recording in Europe with George Russell and Don Cherry. Among those he has played with during a nearly 60-year career are vocalist Sheila Jordan and drummers Art Blakey and Philly Joe Jones. Campenni was a member of pianist Mike Longo’s New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble and has also played with the Carol Sudhalter Quartet and Band of Bones.
The Royal Bopsters will be preceded by a Rising Star opening act featuring a trio led by New Jersey City University trumpeter Parker Cheek (photo below), a senior studying Jazz Performance. Other members of the trio will be fellow NJCU student, bassist Ahmod Bradley, and drummer Chris Peredes, a recent NJCU graduate. Cheek has been studying with trumpeter Nathan Eklund, an NJCU Adjunct Professor, who is also Coordinator of the Big Band program at Jazz House Kids. Bradley and Cheek sometimes play together with drummer Winard Harper, and Bradley has also performed with tap dancer Savion Glover at the Blue Note. Peredes, a member of the Mood Merchant jazz neo soul group, has also been influenced by the fusion sounds of bands once led by Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock.
The Madison Community Arts Center is located at 10 Kings Road in Madison, NJ. Admission to this event will be $15 for NJJS members and $20 for non-members. Student admission is $5 with valid ID. There will be light refreshments for purchase. To order tickets in advance, log onto https://madisonarts.ticketleap.com/jersey-jazz-live-with-the-royal-bopsters/.
Funding for Jersey Jazz Live! has been made possible, in part, by funds from Morris Arts through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of The National Endowment for the Arts.
ROYAL BOPSTERS PHOTO BY FRED H. POLITINSKY