The Manhattan Transfer
Thursday, April 11 at 8 p.m.
Beginning with their first performances in the early 1970s, The Manhattan Transfer have become the cornerstones of contemporary music. Known for their amazing harmony and versatility, incorporating pop, jazz, R&B, rock and roll, swing, symphonic, and a cappella music, the group made their recording debut with their self-titled album in 1975. Starting as an underground group in New York City, they expanded their east-coast following by starring in their own 1975 CBS-TV variety series as a summer replacement for the Cher Bono Show. Then, in 1976, The Manhattan Transfer garnered international popularity when “Chanson D'Amour,” from the Coming Out album, became a number-one hit in Europe.
While well-renowned for their spectacular re-imaginings of classics like “Java Jive,” “Birdland,” “The Boy From New York City,” “Twilight Zone,” “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” and “Route 66,” one of their most acclaimed albums was 1991’s The Offbeat of Avenues, which featured numerous group originals amidst the cover songs.
Defying easy genre categorizations, The Manhattan Transfer became the first act to win Grammy Awards in the pop and jazz categories in one year (1981) for “Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal” for “Boy From New York City” and “Best Jazz Performance Duo or Group” for “Until I Met You (Corner Pocket).” In 1985, their album Vocalese made history as the single greatest Grammy nominated album in history in one year with 12 nominations. Vocalese earned two Grammys: “Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group”; and “Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices” for “Another Night in Tunisia” (won by Bentyne and Bobby McFerrin). This album, which featured jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie, Ron Carter, and the Count Basie Orchestra, changed the perception of The Manhattan Transfer from superstar pop artists to formidable jazz singers.
One of the co-writers on Manhattan Transfer’s latest album, The Junction is the group’s new member, bass vocalist Trist Curless. Curless began subbing on the road for the late band founder Tim Hauser in 2013, officially joining after Hauser’s passing in late 2014.
Welcoming Curless to the fold, Janis Siegel (alto), Alan Paul (tenor) and Cheryl Bentyne (soprano) embrace a new dynamic and fresh possibilities for their legendary sound. The Junction, dedicated to the memory of Hauser, was produced by another master vocalist, five-time Grammy winner Mervyn Warren.
“It’s a whole different ball game, but one we feel is still musically very viable and exciting,” Siegel says. Paul adds, “The concept of The Junction is that this is a special meeting place, a junction of merging our four-and-a-half-decade musical legacy with something new...We weren’t looking to replace Tim’s unique personality, but found in Trist someone who could add a new element to the group, and take care of the bottom of the quartet with his true bass.” Curless reflects, “My personal desire was that the album would sound like The Manhattan Transfer, keeping what they’ve done, but bringing a new energy that would come naturally with my strengths as an artist, becoming a part of theirs.” Says Bentyne, “We all have a different take on music and appreciate different styles, so each member brings something to the table that is unique.”
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