Back on the road: Vocal jazz group looking to harmonize once again at Nashville concert

Bob Ferreira is as on target with his humor as he is with his precise vocal harmony with the long-running musical group The Four Freshmen.

When the quartet with Columbus roots performed in Columbus two years ago, the percussionist mentioned in his between-song chatter that he and his vocal jazz bandmates loved repackaging older material to give it new life.

“So, now we’re going to do our Britney Spears medley,” he quipped as the crowd laughed. “Then, we’ll do some Kiss.”

Truth be told, that’s just the group’s senior member — 28 loyal years and counting — having unscripted fun onstage. And he guarantees it’ll be more than fun when at least the 26th incarnation of the group performs for one of the first times since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most concert halls early this year. The performers will be in concert Aug. 21 at a half-capacity, socially-distanced Brown County Playhouse in Nashville.

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Unless Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb moves the state to its final stage of the Back on Track Indiana plan, about 225 tickets will be available. Otherwise, it could be nearly 450 seats.

“We’re chomping at the bit to get out again,” Ferreira said, speaking by phone from his home in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he said a major casino just cut its entire entertainment staff. “We just feel fortunate to still be able to do what we love.”

And that love focuses especially on vocal jazz classics that the original Four Freshmen, including late Columbus natives and brothers Ross and Don Barbour, took and made a national name for themselves with songs such as “It’s a Blue World,” “Graduation Day,” “Poinciana,” and others from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s.

The foursome later heavily influenced more modern groups ranging from The Beach Boys to Manhattan Transfer. The original group was so special that it was nominated for six Grammy Awards. The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, lauded by many as something of a musical genius, has said he wore out the grooves of his Four Freshmen LPs trying to imitate the harmony.

And this version of the original quartet is still surprised to see high school students of today performing Four Freshmen arrangements of songs such as “Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Like You” on YouTube.

Because of such interest, the group regularly has done master classes and workshops with high schoolers.

“This proves we’re reaching way more people than just our key (older) demographic,” the artist said.

Seventy-eight-year-old Brown County Playhouse Board Chairman Bob Kirlin is a fan of the Four Freshmen, but has never seen the group live. He is looking forward to it.

“The No. 1 thing is, I can clearly understand their lyrics,” Kirlin said. “And their music is so relaxing. In today’s world, I think we all need to slow down a little bit.”

And perhaps enjoy a laugh now and then, which his why group members have mentioned that they sprinkle humor liberally through many shows.

“We’re not just homogeneous automatons,” Ferreira said. “We definitely each have our own distinct personalities.”

And if audiences can’t smile at the possibility of the group jumping into a Britney Spears or Kiss tune, Ferreira always can playfully offer another alternative: The Doors, since he also plays in a tribute band for that classic rock group. Whatever the style, he’s grateful that tunes remain a broad-based bridge builder.

“In this age of so much division, it’s comforting to know that people still can come together in unity one thing,” he said. “And that’s music.”

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Who: Vocal jazz harmony group The Four Freshman.

When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 21.

Where: Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St. in Nashville in Brown County.

Tickets: $24 and $25.

Available: browncountyplayhouse.org or 812-988-6555.

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