The Manhattan Transfer was formed at the end of the 1960s. The vocal quartet's popularity sky-rocketed a few years later, when original member Tim Hauser recruited singers Janis Siegel, Alan Paul, and Laurel Massé-replaced by Cheryl Bentyne in the late 1970s. Around that time, the foursome started making its mark with an eclectic repertoire of jazz, pop, and R&B, mixed with a revival of music trends like doo wop or vocalese. The group later dabbled in a wide array of other genres, from Brazilian to swing to children's music. In 2010, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal presented The Manhattan Transfer with the Ella Fitzgerald Award.
Transfer to Manhattan
Formed in 1969, Manhattan Transfer's first line-up dealt in folk and pop, with close ties to "hippie" outfits like Spanky & Our Gang or Dan Hick and his Hot Licks. This short-lived phase spawned Jukin' (1971), a first album that featured Java Jive-a song that resurfaced four years later on their second album-as well as a cover of Fats Waller's You're a Viper, sung by Tim Hauser.
In 1972, Hauser was the last original member still on board. He recruited the new talents of Laurel Massé, Janis Siegel and Alan Paul, a move that proved to be successful. In 1974, The Manhattan Transfer "2.0" was already performing in some of the Big Apple's hottest cabaret venues.
In early 1975, the four artists released their "second debut" with Atlantic Records, thanks to label boss Ahmet Ertegun. The album featured appearances by fellow jazzmen Zoot Sims, Randy Brecker, and Mel Davis, among others. On the strength of their hit single Operator, Manhattan Transfer guest starred on a number of variety television programs and even hosted their own show the following summer.
Released in 1976, Coming Out embraced a poppier sound, and its single Chanson d'amour reached number one in France and England. The follow-up studio LP, Pastiche (1977), featured their interpretation of The Supremes' Where Did Our Love Go.
In 1978, Laurel Massé decided to leave the group and was replaced by Cheryl Bentyne of The New Deal Rhythm Band. The new recruit made her Transfer debut on Extensions (1979), an album that produced two memorable singles: Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone and Weather Report's Birdland. Both songs became staples of the band's repertoire.
The very well-received Mecca for Moderns (1981) not only generated yet another hit song in The Boy from New York City but also became the first album to bag Grammy Awards in both Pop and Jazz categories. Bodies and Souls came out two years later, followed by Man-Tora! Live in Tokyo in 1984.
The Manhattan Transfer upped the ante in 1985 with Vocalese, a record that landed them 12 Grammy nominations. The album celebrated the work of famed vocalese master Jon Hendricks-who also appeared on the record-and featured a slew of guest stars including Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby McFerrin, McCoy Tyner, and the Count Basie Orchestra under the direction of Thad Jones.
With Brazil (1987), the group chose to explore the works of lesser known Brazilian musicians Djavan and Ivan Lins. The album provided material for the Manhattan Transfer's 1988 concert debut at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.
Over the course of the 1990s and 2000s, Hauser, Siegel, Paul, and Bentyne carried on with their experiments in style and released a seasonal treat (The Christmas Album, 1992), a children's music album (The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tommy the Tuba, 1994), choice cuts from swing's golden era (Swing, 1997), and a tribute to Louis Armstrong (Spirit of St. Louis, 2000).
The eclectic Vibrate (2004) included two compositions borrowed from Montréal-born singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, while 2006's The Definitive Pop Collection revisited 30 years' worth of Manhattan Transfer music on two CDs.
In 2009, The Manhattan Transfer released The Chick Corea Songbook, in tribute to the legendary American pianist and composer, who not only contributed the original piece Free Samba but also guest starred on the keyboards.
The following year, the group visited the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal for the sixth time and was presented with the Ella Fitzgerald Award.