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The Manhattan Transfer

 B i o g r a p h y

The Manhattan Transfer is the name of two American vocal groups. The first, short-lived version was established in New York City in 1969, and disbanded after a producing a single album. The second (which this article focuses on) was established in 1972 and is still together as of 2007. It is famous for mixing jazz, big band, and popular music styles. The group's name comes from John Dos Passos' 1925 novel Manhattan Transfer and reflects their New York origins.

The group was founded in 1972 by singers Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, Laurel Massé and Tim Hauser. Performances at Max's Kansas City, Trude Heller's and Reno Sweeney in New York City soon brought them a cult following. In 1975 MT released its first album, The Manhattan Transfer, containing the group's first hit single, the gospel tune “Operator.” In 2003, the song was featured in the opening scenes of the 2003 film Phone Booth starring Colin Farrell. The 1971 album Jukin' was made with a different group of singers, with Tim Hauser being the only singer common to both groups. This earlier Manhattan Transfer is generally considered to be a different group.

The group soon did very well in Europe, where its next two albums, Coming Out and Pastiche, brought it a string of top 10 hits. One was a revival of Art and Dotty Todd's “Chanson D'Amour”, which went to number one in the UK in 1977 but failed to chart in the US. These hits were followed by a live album, The Manhattan Transfer Live. It was recorded in the UK and captured the group's great popularity in Europe at that time. Immediately after that album was recorded, in 1978, Laurel Massé was badly injured in an auto accident and was replaced by Cheryl Bentyne. The line-up has remained the same since then. Its next recording, Extensions, earned The Manhattan Transfer their second US pop hit: “Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone”, written by Alan Paul and Jay Graydon as a tribute to the 1960s CBS television series created by Rod Serling. (NOTE: The introduction of the song is incorrectly attributed in the liner notes to Bernard Herrmann, who wrote the theme for Season One of The Twilight Zone only. The more famous Twilight Zone theme that is used in the Manhattan Transfer song was composed by Marius Constant.)

Extensions featured a cover of Weather Report's “Birdland”, with lyrics by Jon Hendricks, the piece that has become The Manhattan Transfer's signature tune. One of the most popular jazz recordings of 1980, “Birdland” brought The Transfer its first Grammy award (Best Jazz Fusion Performance, Vocal or Instrumental), and the award for Best Arrangement For Voices. In 1981, The Manhattan Transfer made music history by becoming the first group to win Grammys in both pop and jazz categories in the same year. “Boy From New York City” (a cover of the 1965 hit by The Ad Libs), which broke into the top 10 on the pop charts, 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 for Best Jazz Performance, Duo or Group. Both of these songs appeared on the group's fifth album, Mecca for Moderns. In 1982, the group won another Grammy, for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group, for its rendition of the classic ode-to-the-road, “Route 66”. The song appeared on the soundtrack to the Burt Reynolds film Sharky's Machine.

September 1983 brought Bodies and Souls, whose urban-contemporary flavor resulted in two R&B-chart singles — the #2 “Spice of Life” (also #40 on the pop chart) and the ballad “Mystery” (#80 R&B, #102 Pop). Despite its disappointing chart performance, “Mystery” — with powerful lead vocals by Siegel — has become one of the group's best-loved songs. Hauser has called it the group's biggest turntable (radio airplay) hit. Anita Baker covered it on her breakout album, Rapture. The Manhattan Transfer's next set, Vocalese (1985) was a tour de force of highly complex material that tested the quartet's capabilities. It was a great critical success. Vocalese received twelve Grammy nominations — at the time making it second only to Michael Jackson's Thriller as the most nominated single album ever. The Transfer 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 was also released on VHS and DVD. For Brasil, 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. In 1991 the group released The Offbeat of Avenues on the Sony label featuring original tunes written or co-written by members of the quartet. This was followed by the release of their holiday CD titled The Christmas Album. Switching back to the Atlantic label, they recorded Tonin' (a collection of R&B and pop hits from the 1960s which was rather unsuccessful), The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby the Tuba (a children's album), Man-Tora! Live In Tokyo (a concert recorded in 1986 in Japan), and their 1997 album Swing covered 1930s-era swing music. Their final album for the Atlantic label was The Spirit of St. Louis (2000), dedicated to the music of Louis Armstrong. The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998.

The group changed 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. This is another one of their “pastiche” CDs, blending original tunes with older ones, pop, jazz, funk, etc. They also released (in Japan only) An Acapella Christmas in 2005. 2006 saw the release of The Symphony Sessions, a collection of the group's hits re-arranged for symphonies and pops orchestras, and The Definitive Pop Collection, a two-disc collection of the group's tunes which would lead one to believe they were only from the group's pop repertoire. Instead, it's a hodge-podge of the group's songs under their Atlantic label contract. In late 2006, the Transfer's second concert DVD was released: The Christmas Concert, and was aired by PBS in select locations. In 2006, they recorded their first original title song for a movie, "Trail of the Screaming Forehead."

Since 1975 they have released 24 of their own albums and have appeared as guest artists on dozens of recordings. Alan Paul, Cheryl Bentyne and Janis Siegel all have solo careers, with Janis's being the most prolific.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Official Homepage: www.manhattantransfer.org

 A l b u m s

The Best of ... (Atlantic Recordings, 1981)
Bop Doo Wop (Atlantic Recordings, 1984)
The Chick Corea Songbook (Four Quarters Entertainment, 2009)