The Manhattan Transfer

The Manhattan Transfer is an American vocal group founded in 1969, performing a cappella, vocalese, swing, standards, Brazilian jazz, rhythm and blues, and pop music. The group has won eleven Grammy Awards.

The Manhattan Transfer
The Manhattan Transfer from left to right: Janis Siegel, Cheryl Bentyne, Alan Paul, and Tim Hauser
The Manhattan Transfer from left to right: Janis Siegel, Cheryl Bentyne, Alan Paul, and Tim Hauser
Background information
OriginNew York City, U.S.
Years active1969–present
LabelsCapitol, Columbia, Atlantic, Telarc, Rhino
Past members

There have been several incarnations and formations of the Manhattan Transfer, with each edition having different styles, with original member Tim Hauser being the only person to be part of each of them.

The first and original rendition was in the 1960s, consisting of a mostly a capella tinged style; it featured Hauser, Erin Dickins, Marty Nelson, Pat Rosalia, and Gene Pistilli. The second version of the group, formed in 1972, incorporating a more vocal jazz approach, consisted of Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, and Laurel Massé.

The third, and most commercially perceived, formation of the group happened in 1979, after Massé left the group after being badly injured in a car crash and was replaced by Cheryl Bentyne. This edition of the Manhattan Transfer performed electronic-styled pop, soul, funk, and rhythmic music, having success in the 1980s.

The group's fourth, and current, edition, since the 1990s, originally consisted of Hauser, Paul, Siegel, and Bentyne, and performs mostly cool and smooth jazz. It also has several rotating touring members, and longtime pianist Yaron Gershovsky accompanied the group on tour and served as music director. Trist Curless from the Los Angeles a cappella group m-pact became a permanent member in October 2014 following Hauser's death.[2]

Early years edit

In 1969, Tim Hauser formed a vocal group in New York City called The Manhattan Transfer after the novel by John Dos Passos.[3] The group consisted of Hauser, Erin Dickins, Marty Nelson, Pat Rosalia, and Gene Pistilli. This group made one album, Jukin' (Capitol, 1971), which looked at the jazz music of the past as well as rock and country genres unlike the later incarnations of the group.[4] They were not picked up by Capitol Records for a second album, and the group broke up in 1973.

Shortly thereafter, Hauser met Laurel Massé while he was a cab driver and she was his passenger. Soon after, he met Janis Siegel. During this time, session drummer Roy Markowitz, who had played with Janis Joplin and recorded with Don McLean, attended a performance of the group and convinced Tim to change the group's direction. Roy was in the Broadway band of Grease and introduced one of its cast members, Alan Paul (who played the dual role of bandleader Johnny Casino and the Teen Angel), to Tim. Thus began another version of The Manhattan Transfer.[3][4] After performing in clubs in New York City, the quartet asked Roy to produce a demo to present to Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic Records. The demo was a success and Atlantic released its debut album with guest appearances by bona fide jazz musicians Randy Brecker, Jon Faddis, and Zoot Sims. The Manhattan Transfer (Atlantic, 1975) eschewed the condescension of the previous album, presenting instead serious vocalese renditions of "Java Jive" and "Tuxedo Junction" and scoring a Hot 100 top 25 hit with the gospel-tinged "Operator."[4] During the month of August 1975, the group hosted a four-week variety series on CBS-TV. The hour-long show was simply called The Manhattan Transfer, aired on Sunday evenings, and for the most part concentrated on showcasing the talents of the group.[5] Their next album, Coming Out (1976), produced "Chanson d'Amour," which was a number one hit in the UK and Ireland.[4]

Bentyne and "Birdland" edit

In 1978, Laurel Massé was in a car crash and dropped out of the group. She was replaced by Cheryl Bentyne.[3][4] The group's next album, Extensions (Atlantic, 1979), produced the hit "Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone", a song based on the TV series The Twilight Zone (including an impersonation of Rod Serling's narration from Alan Paul).[6]

Extensions featured a cover version of "Birdland", an instrumental by the jazz fusion group Weather Report, with lyrics by Jon Hendricks of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. One of the most popular jazz recordings of 1980, "Birdland" won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance, while Janis Siegel won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Arrangement.

In 1981, the Manhattan Transfer made music history by becoming the first group to win Grammy awards for both popular and jazz categories in the same year. "The Boy from New York City", a cover of the 1965 success by The Ad Libs, reached the Top 10 on the Hot 100 and won them the award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and "Until I Met You (Corner Pocket)" earned them a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. Both of these songs appeared on the group's fifth album, Mecca for Moderns (Atlantic, 1981). In 1982, the group won another Grammy, for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group, for its rendition of "Route 66". The song was featured on the soundtrack to the Burt Reynolds film Sharky's Machine.

Stretching out edit

In September 1983, the group released the album Bodies and Souls, with an urban-contemporary style which resulted in two R&B chart singles. The first was the No. 2 hit "Spice of Life", which was co-written by former Heatwave member Rod Temperton who had penned several hits for Michael Jackson. The single also reached No. 40 on the US pop chart and No. 19 in the UK. The other single, the ballad "Mystery" (#80 R&B, No. 102 Pop), was later covered by Anita Baker on her 1986 album Rapture.

In 1985, the group released two albums; the first was Bop Doo-Wopp, which included both live and studio recordings, and the second was Vocalese, which received twelve Grammy nominations—at the time making it second only to Michael Jackson's Thriller as the most nominated single album ever. The group won in two categories: Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group, and Best Arrangement for Voices. This was followed by a live recording of many of these songs titled Live. This concert, recorded in Japan, was also released on VHS and DVD, later titled Vocalese Live.

For their next album, Brasil (1987), the group headed south to work with Brazilian songwriters and musicians Ivan Lins, Milton Nascimento, Djavan and Gilberto Gil. Brasil won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

The group did not release any studio albums again until 1991, when they signed with the Sony Music label and released The Offbeat of Avenues, featuring original material written or co-written by members of the quartet. Their efforts brought them their 10th Grammy award, for the song "Sassy". This was followed by the release of their first holiday album entitled The Christmas Album in 1992.

Switching back to Atlantic Records as their distributor, they released Tonin' (a collection of R&B and popular successes from the 1960s), The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby the Tuba (a children's album), and their 1997 album Swing which covered 1930s-era swing music. Their final album for Atlantic was The Spirit of St. Louis in 2000, dedicated to the music of Louis Armstrong. The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998.

Since 2000 edit

The group signed to the Telarc label in 2003 to release Couldn't Be Hotter, a live performance capturing many of the songs from The Spirit of St. Louis. In 2004, the group released Vibrate, another one of their pastich albums, blending original tunes with older ones, pop, jazz and funk. Vibrate featured notable musicians such as bassist Will Lee and Steve Hass on drums. They also released, first in Japan, their second holiday album, An Acapella Christmas, in 2005. The album was released in the U.S. in 2006.

During 2006, the group released The Symphony Sessions, a collection of some of their best-known songs re-recorded with an orchestra, and also The Definitive Pop Collection, a two-disc collection of the group's material from their Atlantic Records period. They also recorded their first original title song for a movie, "Trail of the Screaming Forehead"; and, in late 2006, the group released a new concert DVD, The Christmas Concert, which was broadcast by PBS.

The Chick Corea Songbook, a tribute to the works of that American jazz musician, was released in September 2009. The album features an appearance by Corea himself on the track "Free Samba". Other prominent musicians on this recording are Airto Moreira, Scott Kinsey, Steve Hass, Alex Acuña, Jimmy Earl, John Benitez, and Christian McBride.

In 2011, The Manhattan Transfer worked on an album of previously recorded, but never finished, songs to honor their 40th anniversary. "We are working on a project now that is called The Vaults. Over the years, there are a lot of different songs that we recorded but never finished. We pull out from the archives a lot of these songs and are finishing them," said Alan Paul in an interview for Jazz FM radio in Bulgaria.[7] One of the highlights of the album was a vocalese version of George and Ira Gershwin's "The Man I Love," based on an Artie Shaw and His Orchestra performance of the composition, which had originally been slated for the Swing album.

Substitutes and fourth line-up edit

Original member Pat Rosalia died from cancer in July 2011.

In 2011, while receiving treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma, Cheryl Bentyne was replaced on stage for eight months by the soprano Margaret Dorn; Dorn replaced her again December 2013 (followed by Katie Campbell in early 2014) while Bentyne underwent further treatment.[8] Tim Hauser was absent from the stage in 2013 and early 2014 as he recovered from spinal surgery; he was replaced on stage by bass/baritone Trist Curless of the a cappella group m-pact.

In September 2013, one of the original members of the group, Erin Dickins, started a Kickstarter campaign to re-record "Java Jive" with the surviving original members. It featured Tim Hauser's scat musings, as well as a vocal arrangement by Marty Nelson, sung by Dickins, Nelson, Hauser and Gene Pistilli. The project was successfully funded on October 9, 2013, and released on the CD Java Jive on Dot Time Records.[9]

Tim Hauser died of cardiac arrest on October 16, 2014. Following Hauser's death, the group announced Curless would replace him.[2]

Gene Pistilli died on December 26, 2017.

Awards and honors edit

Discography edit

Albums edit

Album Label Year Peak chart positions Certifications
US Jazz
Jukin' Capitol 1971
The Manhattan Transfer Atlantic 1975 33 49
Coming Out Atlantic 1976 48 12 29 18
Pastiche Atlantic 1978 66 10 39
The Manhattan Transfer Live Atlantic 1978 4 71 17
Extensions Atlantic 1979 55 63 91 48
Mecca for Moderns Atlantic 1981 22 6 65 21
The Best of The Manhattan Transfer Atlantic 1981 103 22 27 25
Bodies and Souls Atlantic 1983 52 10 38 53 75 49
Bop Doo-Wopp Atlantic 1984 127 11
Vocalese Atlantic 1985 74 2 39
Live Atlantic 1987 187
Brasil Atlantic 1987 98 2
The Offbeat of Avenues Columbia 1991 179 2
Anthology: Down in Birdland Atlantic 1992
The Christmas Album Columbia 1992 120
The Very Best of The Manhattan Transfer Atlantic 1994 157 3
The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby the Tuba Summit 1994
Tonin' Atlantic 1995 123
Man-Tora! Live in Tokyo Rhino 1996
Swing Atlantic 1997 1
Boy from New York City and Other Hits Flashback 1997
The Spirit of St. Louis Atlantic 2000 3
Couldn't Be Hotter Telarc 2003 12
Vibrate Telarc 2004 11
An Acapella Christmas King 2005 9
The Symphony Sessions Rhino 2006
The Chick Corea Songbook Four Quarters 2009 10
The Junction BMG 2018
Fifty Craft Recordings 2022
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

Singles edit

Year Title Peak chart positions Certifications
US Adult
US Dance
1975 "Operator" 22 60 26
1976 "Tuxedo Junction" 24
1977 "Chanson D'Amour" 1 9 14
"Don't Let Go" 32
1978 "Walk In Love" 12
"On a Little Street in Singapore" 20
"Where Did Our Love Go/Je Voulais Te Dire (Que Je T'Attends)" 40 27
1979 "Who What Where When Why" 49
"I Kiss Your Hand Madam" 54
1980 "Twilight Zone" / "Twilight Tone" 30 4 25 28 15
"Trickle Trickle" 73 25 32
1981 "The Boy from New York City" 7 4 30 36 8 2
"Smile Again"
1982 "Spies in the Night" 103
"Route 66" 78 22
1983 "Spice of Life" 40 5 29 32 19
1984 "Mystery" 6
"Baby Come Back to Me (The Morse Code of Love)" 83 14
1987 "Soul Food to Go (Sina)" 25
1995 "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" (with Phil Collins) 27 58
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

Guest/soundtrack appearances edit

In other media edit

"Chanson d'Amour" was featured in Are You Being Served, performed by all the staff of Grace Brothers department store in the final episode of the long running sitcom.

References edit

  1. ^ "The Manhattan Transfer Group History".
  2. ^ a b The Manhattan Transfer (November 1, 2013). "Ladies and Gentlemen ... Trist Curless!". Manhattan Transfer Official Site. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Weber, Bruce (October 17, 2014). "Tim Hauser, the Founder of the Manhattan Transfer, Dies at 72". The New York Times. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e Bush, John. "The Manhattan Transfer". AllMusic. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  5. ^ McNeil, Alex (1984). Total Television: A Comprehensive Guide to Programming from 1948 to the Present. Penguin Books. p. 403. ISBN 0-14-00-7377-9.
  6. ^ The introduction of the song is incorrectly attributed in the liner notes to Bernard Herrmann, who wrote the theme used in Season 1 of the series. The more famous Twilight Zone theme that is used in the Manhattan Transfer song (and from season 2 of the TV series onward) was composed by Marius Constant.
  7. ^ "40 years of harmony – The Manhattan Transfer's Alan Paul". Jazz FM Radio. Archived from the original on April 2, 2012.
  8. ^ Manhattan Transfer, November 28, 2013. "Ladies and Gentlemen ... Margaret Dorn!". Manhattan Transfer Official Site. Retrieved December 2, 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Dickins Geyelin, Erin. ""Java Jive" Jazz for Foodies". Kickstarter. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "The Manhattan Transfer - Awards". AllMusic. Archived from the original on July 11, 2014. Retrieved January 15, 2022.
  11. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 346. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  12. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 190. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  13. ^ a b "Discography The Manhattan Transfer". Retrieved January 15, 2022.
  14. ^ "Manhattan Transfer - Manhattan Transfer (album)". Retrieved January 18, 2022.
  15. ^ "Manhattan Transfer - Pastiche". Retrieved January 18, 2022.
  16. ^ "Manhattan Transfer - Live". Retrieved January 18, 2022.
  17. ^ "Kent Music Report No 453 – 28 February 1983 > Platinum Albums 1982 (Continued)". Retrieved December 26, 2022 – via
  18. ^ Lwin, Nanda (1999). Top 40 Hits: The Essential Chart Guide. Music Data Canada. ISBN 9781896594132.
  19. ^ "Manhattan Transfer - Chanson D'amour". Retrieved January 18, 2022.

External links edit