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Manhattan Transfer

Riding a wave of nostalgia in the '70s, the Manhattan Transfer resurrected jazz trends from boogie-woogie to bop to vocalese in a slick, slightly commercial setting that balanced the group's close harmonies. Originally formed in 1969, the quartet recorded several albums of jazz standards as well as much material closer to R&B/pop. Still, they were easily the most popular jazz vocal group of their era, and the most talented of any since the heyday of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross during the early '60s.

When the group was formed in the late '60s, however, the Manhattan Transfer was a hippie cornball act similar to the Lovin' Spoonful or Spanky & Our Gang. The lone LP that appeared from the original lineup -- leader Gene Pistilli plus Tim Hauser, Erin Dickins, Marty Nelson, and Pat Rosalia -- was Jukin', assembled by Capitol. An odd and hardly successful satire record, it was the last appearance on a Manhattan Transfer album for all of the above except Hauser.

After Hauser met vocalists Laurel Masse and Janis Siegel in 1972, the trio re-formed the Manhattan Transfer later that year with the addition of Alan Paul. The group became popular after appearances at a few New York hotspots and recorded their own debut, an eponymous LP recorded with help from the jazz world (including Zoot Sims, Randy Brecker, Jon Faddis, and Mel Davis). Featuring vocalese covers of "Java Jive" and "Tuxedo Junction" as well as a Top 40 hit in the aggressive gospel tune "Operator," the album rejuvenated the field of vocalese (dormant since the mid-'60s) and made the quartet stars in the jazz community across Europe as well as America.

The Manhattan Transfer's next two albums, Coming Out and Pastiche, minimized the jazz content in favor of covers from around the music community, from Nashville to Los Angeles to Motown. A single from Coming Out, the ballad "Chanson d'Amour," hit number one in Britain. Though Masse left in 1979 for a solo career, Cheryl Bentyne proved a capable replacement, and that same year, Extensions introduced their best-known song, "Birdland," the ode to bop written by Weather Report several years earlier.

Throughout the 1980s, the group balanced retreads from all aspects of American song. The 1981 LP Mecca for Moderns gained the Manhattan Transfer their first American Top Ten hit, with a cover of the Ad Libs' 1965 girl group classic "The Boy from New York City," but also included a version of Charlie Parker's "Confirmation" and a surreal, wordless tribute (?) named "Kafka." (The album also earned the Manhattan Transfer honors as the first artist to receive Grammys in both the pop and jazz categories in the same year.) The production on virtually all was susceptible to '80s slickness, and though the group harmonies were wonderful, all but the most open of listeners had trouble digesting the sheer variety of material.

The group's 1985 tribute to vocal pioneer Jon Hendricks, titled Vocalese, marked a shift in the Manhattan Transfer's focus. Subsequent works managed to keep the concepts down to one per album, and the results were more consistent. Such records as 1987's Brasil, 1994's Tubby the Tuba (a children's record), 1995's Tonin' ('60s R&B), and 1997's Swing (pre-war swing) may not have found the group at their performance peak, but were much more easily understandable for what they were.

The group stayed very active and concept-heavy during the 2000s, beginning with a tribute to Louis Armstrong for 2000's The Spirit of St. Louis. They included a pair of Rufus Wainwright songs among the jazz material on 2004's Vibrate, and released An Acapella Christmas the following year. The Symphony Sessions followed in 2006, offering re-recordings of some of their best-known songs with orchestral arrangements.

In 2009, the Transfer saluted one of the biggest names in jazz with The Chick Corea Songbook, and featured contributions from Corea, Airto Moreira, Christian McBride, and Ronnie Cuber, among others. During the early 2010s, the group focused more on performing, although both Bentyne and Hauser were forced to find temporary replacements during medical procedures. After spinal surgery in 2013, Hauser returned to the group, but then died suddenly from cardiac arrest in October 2014. ~ John Bush, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Chick Corea Songbook

1. Free Samba/Spain (I Can Recall)

2. Prelude

3. Spain (I Can Recall)

4. One Step Closer (The One Step)

5. Children's Song #15

6. 500 Miles High

7. Another Roadside Attraction (Space Circus)

8. Time's Lie

9. Chanson Du Bebe (Children's Song #1)

10. Ragtime In Pixiland (Pixiland Rag)

11. Story Of Anna & Armando (Armando's Rhumba)

12. Free Samba (Extended Version)

x

Track List: Bop Doo-Wopp

1. Route 66

2. Jeannine

3. My Cat Fell In The Well (Well! Well! Well!)

4. The Duke Of Dubuque

5. How High The Moon

6. Baby Come Back To Me (The Morse Code Of Love)

7. Safronia B

8. Heart's Desire

9. That's The Way It Goes

10. Unchained Melody

x

Track List: Rhino Hi-Five: The Manhattan Transfer

1. Boy From New York City

2. Tuxedo Junction

3. Birdland

4. Java Jive

5. Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone

x

Track List: The Symphony Sessions (Remastered)

2. Candy

3. Embraceable You

4. That's The Way It Goes

6. Because You Are All Heart (Movement 2; A Portrait Of Ella)

8. Vibrate

9. Clouds (Nuages)

11. The Offbeat Of Avenues

x

Track List: Vibrate

1. Walkin' In N.Y.

2. Greek Song

3. Vibrate

4. The New Juju Man (Tutu)

5. Doodlin'

6. The Twelfth

7. First Ascent

8. Core Of Sound (Modinha)

9. Feel Flows

10. Embraceabe You

11. Come Softly To Me / I Met Him On A Sunday

x

Track List: Sugar (Single)

1. Sugar (That Sugar Baby O'Mine)

2. Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans

x

Track List: Boy From New York City And Other Hits

1. Boy From New York City

2. Java Jive

3. Gloria

4. Helpless

5. Tuxedo Junction

6. Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone

7. Ray's Rockhouse

8. Mystery

9. Smile Again

10. Birdland

x

Track List: Swing

1. Stomp Of King Porter

2. Sing A Study In Brown

3. Sing Moten's Swing

4. A-Tisket, A-Tasket

5. I Know Why (And So Do You)

6. Sing You Sinners

7. Java Jive

8. Down South Camp Meetin'

9. Topsy

10. Clouds

11. Skyliner

12. It's Good Enough To Keep

13. Choo Choo Ch'Boogie (Live)

x

Track List: Tonin'

1. Let's Hang On (Feat. Frankie Valli)

2. Groovin' (Feat. Felix Cavaliere)

3. It's Gonna Take A Miracle (Feat. Bette Midler)

4. I Second That Emotion (Feat. Smokey Robinson)

5. La-La Means I Love You (Feat. Laura Nyro)

6. Too Busy Thinking About My Baby (Feat. Phil Collins)

7. The Thrill Is Gone (Feat. Ruth Brown And B.B. King)

8. Hot Fun In The Summertime (Feat. Chaka Kahn)

9. Along Comes Mary

10. Dream Lover (Feat. James Taylor)

11. Save The Last Dance For Me (Feat. Ben E. King)

12. God Only Knows

x

Track List: The Very Best Of The Manhattan Transfer

1. Boy From New York City

2. Trickle Trickle

3. Gloria

4. Operator

5. Tuxedo Junction

6. Four Brothers

7. Ray's Rockhouse

8. Soul Food To Go (Sina)

9. Spice Of Life

10. Baby Come Back To Me (The Morse Code Of Love)

11. Candy

12. A Nightingale Sang In Berkely Square

13. Birdland

14. Java Jive

15. Route 66

16. Twilight Zone, Twilight Tone

x

Track List: Anthology - Down In Birdland

Disc 1

1. Trickle Trickle

2. Gloria

3. Operator

4. Helpless

5. Ray's Rockhouse

7. Zindy Lou

8. Mystery

9. Baby Come Back To Me (The Morse Code Of Love)

10. Route 66

11. Java Jive

13. Foreign Affair

14. Smile Again

15. Spice Of Life

16. The Speak Up Mambo (Cuentame)

17. Soul Food To Go (Sina)

18. So You Say (Esquinas)

19. Boy From New York City

20. Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone

Disc 2

1. Four Brothers

2. Blee Blop Blues

3. Candy

7. Tuxedo Junction

8. That Cat Is High

9. Body And Soul

11. Sing Joy Spring

12. To You

13. Down South Camp Meetin'

15. Why Not! (Manhattan Carnival)

16. Another Night In Tunisia

17. Capim

18. A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square

19. Birdland

x

Track List: The Offbeat Of Avenues

1. The Offbeat Of Avenues

2. Sassy

4. What Goes Around Comes Around

5. Blue Serenade

6. Gentleman With A Family

8. A World Apart

9. Confide In Me

10. The Quietude (Encuentro De Animales)

11. Blues For Pablo

x

Track List: Coming Out

1. Don't Let Go

2. Zindy Lou

3. Chanson D'Amour

4. Helpless

5. Scotch And Soda

6. The Speak Up Mambo (Cuentame)

7. Poinciana (The Song Of The Tree)

8. S.O.S.

9. Popsicle Toes

10. It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference

11. The Thought Of Loving You

x

Track List: Brasil

1. Soul Food To Go

2. The Zoo Blues

3. So You Say

4. Capim

5. Metropolis

6. Hear The Voices

7. Agua

8. The Jungle Pioneer

9. Notes From The Underground

x

Track List: Vocalese

1. That's Killer Joe

2. Rambo

3. Airegin

4. To You

5. Meet Benny Bailey

6. Another Night In Tunisia

7. Ray's Rockhouse

8. Blee Blop Blues

9. Oh Yes, I Remember Clifford

10. Sing Joy Spring

11. Move

x

Track List: Bodies And Souls

1. Spice Of Life

2. This Independence

3. Mystery

4. American Pop

5. Soldier Of Fortune

6. Code Of Ethics

7. Malaise En Malaisie

8. Down South Camp Meetin'

9. Why Not (Manhattan Carnival)

10. Goodbye Love

11. The Night That Monk Returned To Heaven

x

Track List: Mecca For Moderns

1. On The Boulevard

2. The Boy From New York City

3. (Wanted) Dead Or Alive

4. Spies In The Night

5. Smile Again

6. "Until I Met You" (Corner Pocket)

7. (The Word Of) Confirmation

8. Kafka

9. A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square

x

Track List: Extensions

1. Birdland

2. Wacky Dust

3. Nothin' You Can Do About It

4. Coo Coo U

5. Body And Soul

6. Twilight Zone - Twilight Tone

7. Trickle Trickle

8. Shaker Song

9. Foreign Affair

x

Track List: The Manhattan Transfer

1. Tuxedo Junction

2. Sweet Talking Guy

3. Operator

4. Candy

5. Gloria

6. Clap Your Hands

7. That Cat Is High

8. You Can Depend On Me

9. Blue Champagne

10. Java Jive

11. Occapella

12. Heart's Desire

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