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The 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

Comments

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Jive'n, swingin and just the grooviest blue-eyed soul brothers ever, whose stylist vocal harmony is superb and always relevant. It is a joy to listen to them sing.
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Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if u don't post this u will die in 2 days. Now u started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lovers name will come on the screen in big letters. This is so scary because it actually works.
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dahliamma
Tim Hauser will be missed! :(
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May God Bless them all, and help them bear the loss of their friend. Great work guys, through all the years. Maybe we'll hear more soon, I certainly hope so!
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Always loved them!
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All I want to know is when is the next album due out?
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rwilfinger
They'd never have to sing anything other than Nightengale Sang in Berkeley Square (sp?) to die happy! I have sung professional l y for more than 30 years and done some MT arrngemnts-c h a l l e n g i n g , rewarding & fun to sing (& even better to listen to THEM)! I'm new to Pandora. Thanks 4 your posts; tells me you don't have to be a singer to appreciate how much effort, energy & polish go into their music and performing!
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jennie_e823
The Brazil album is one of my all-time favorite albums.
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I'm still a fan of MANHATTAN TRANSFER music so smoother
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trecia.dejea n
I was in high school when I first heard ManTran. they are still a very nostalgic group to listen to.
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c1m2j4
This was my 1st MT album (yes, album) LOVED IT!!! Saw them live in Bloomington IN in the 80s. Great group!
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My favorite vocal group! Have seen them in concert in Tahoe, Atlanta. Santa Barbara, L.A. and Cleveland. "Soul Food To Go" always winds my watch! :-)
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I love this song birdland, I want to see MT 2 years ago and my my they were so wonderful. I am a huge New York Voices fan as I am of the Manhattan Transfer. I also met the Manhattan Transfer in person and such nice and wonderful people to chat with-:)
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iamhere522
I have loved MT since I first heard them way back. In the 70's I was able to attend one of their live concerts at Ohio State. It was great! One concert I will never forget for two reasons. They were great and I fell and broke my arm leaving the theater. :-)
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SWING! was one of the great albums put together by Manhatten Transfer! and Asleep At The Wheel!!
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ManTran is, in my opinion, one of the best and finest vocal groups EVER. One has to see them live in concert to completely appreciate the stellar qualities of their voices and how they interpret songs; in particular, I have not found any other groups that performs vocalese as flawlessly as ManTran.
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How wonderful to hear the old school sound...So formal, but so correct, so straight, but also crook in it's own way. The words, they sing, is so clear, but giving you a chance to remember...w h e n people really care about each other, I could go on and on....but the music speak for itself...
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Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of you life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lover's name will come on the screen in big letters. This is so scary because it actually works!
Report as inappropriate
This is an AMAZZING group - truly talented artists. I would love to see them perform live.
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nothing compares to the Transfer... Amazing talent, Amazing people, Amazing --- Love the Transfer...
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I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this very talented group! I used to LOVE their TV show. There was nothing else like it. Wish they would do it again. At least show the re-runs. There is something about the Java Jive that makes you want to play it again as soon as it's over. The same with most of their songs. Their covers were always true to and even better than the original versions! Another one I never get enough of is Snowfall on their Christmas Album. :-)
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Melissa, my sig-other's 8 year old daughter, is IN LOVE with Soul Food To Go, both the song AND the video. She will come into my office at the odd moment and just flat say, Bill, I want some soul food... and I KNOW what she wants. This from a kid who also loves some stuff her older teenaged sisters like... AH, maybe I can have some good influence. NOW where is my Brasil 66 stuff...
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I remember seeing and hearing them sing Operator on the Tonight Show when I was in high school in the late 70's and thinking that was the coolest sound I had ever heard. I still have the 45 of that song. I love this group and their diverse output.
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garyreems
I also have seen them at Jazz Alley in Seattle, also years ago on the Seattle water front. They are great.
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I've been loving this band since I was in highschool! saw them at Jazz Alley (Seattle,WA) and they are still amazing!
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blglaw
first l,h and ross, then mt. i hope they record or the next 20 years. if only l,h and ross did (their time was too short)!
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pfarley731
I wanted to be Janis Siegel when I was in college choir!
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MT has trickle trickled and splashed all over my heart and given me ear candy since I was a wee lad.
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rnbabydoll
Where is this group? Wonderful, soulful group!! Reminds me of growing up in New York...smile . . . . .
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What a great mix of different themes. The nostalgia in this music....
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A very unique and polished group. Check out their version of "Mystery". Incredible performances .
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davidarnold1 6
Caught them in concert recently -- unreal talent and now showcasing Chick Corea compositions on a new CD. The new challenge has been great for the performances .
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My father loved this band. Now I can see why - they're a great band!
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bgmakriswork
LOVE the LP/LOVE the tune...I still have the original...p l a y s like its brand new.
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jjstillrises 5 2
this is one hot albums these are truly blue eyes soul brothers and sisters love their music and this song ****So you say****
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Awesome! Yeah!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
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sassyjan
love it
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Saw them in a small club in Ojai, CA in the 80s just before their tour in Japan. Such a wonderful sound both in small clubs and large concert venues!
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A wonderfully inventive and vocally arresting group. I've loved MT since I was in high school. Hearing all of this great music brings back wonderful memories. MT's music continues to move me and has withstood the test of time.
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ackerbex3
In spite (or perhaps because)of the slickness of the production of their albums, there has always been a throughly hip, tongue-in-ch e e k , ironic flavor to The Transfer's work - sort of a "nudge nudge, wink wink" quality that blends interestingl y with the sheer talent displayed by the group. I just wish they'd put out a Christmas album!
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bobbeeos
The transfer.... . w h a t can I say they are the most to say the least and from my high school days when all the cool kids listened to them "my clique" deb, julie, gary, dennis, and all the other cool musical kids at matatawan regional.... d u r i n g the ted kurdyla era...oh and let's not forget bobby haralla....I miss the good ole days....list e n i n g to the transfer..br i n g s it back!!!!!!! troy g.
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jabbb1
Beautiful tight harmony, Love It!
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A very unique, retro sound!
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They are a good example of talented people working hard to perfect their craft.
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tc4j
I love this sound I wish I could filter out the barbar shop sounds from my station.
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Love their music
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i have listened to them ever since i was little...and i have never ceased to love them
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bigdaddie7
love and kisses baby !
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They have a golden sound. We'll never forget them, why aren't there more comments on these guys?
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rosalezalice
I like their harmony which is remenicent of the 40's; also to see their performance is a delight plus their costumes.
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