The Manhattan Transfer have become cornerstones of contemporary music—and today are celebrating 50 years as a group. See the icons in concert at the McCallum Theatre at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 19.
Originally launched by Tim Hauser in 1969, Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel and Laurel Masse made up the group by 1972. Cheryl Bentyne joined the group in 1979 after Laurel Masse left.
Known for their amazing harmony and versatility, incorporating pop, jazz, R&B, rock ’n’ roll, swing, symphonic and a cappella music, the group was signed by the legendary Ahmet Ertegun to Atlantic Records. The group made their recording debut with their self-titled album in 1975. Known primarily as an East Coast cult act, they expanded their following by starring in their own 1975 CBS variety series as a summer replacement for the Cher Show. Starting as an underground group in New York City, The Manhattan Transfer garnered international popularity when “Chanson D’Amour” from the 1976 Coming Out album became a No. 1 hit in Europe.
One of the co-writers on The Junction—the group’s 2018 album which draws inspiration in part from The Transfer’s classic 1975 version of Glenn Miller’s “Tuxedo Junction”—is the group’s new member, bass-vocalist Trist Curless. Curless began subbing on the road for the late band founder Tim Hauser in 2013, officially joining after Hauser’s passing in late 2014.
Welcoming Curless—a founding member of famed Los Angeles a cappella group m-pact—to the fold, Janis Siegel (alto), Alan Paul (tenor) and Cheryl Bentyne (soprano) embrace a new dynamic and fresh possibilities for their legendary sound that artfully incorporates his low range into their established blend. The Junction, dedicated to the memory of Hauser, was produced by another master vocalist, five-time Grammy winner Mervyn Warren, a renowned film composer, arranger and producer. Warren, one of the founders of gospel/R&B a cappella legends Take 6, wrote the album’s first single, the soulful ballad “Sometimes I Do.”
“It’s a whole different ballgame, but one we feel is still musically very viable and exciting,” Siegel says.
Curless reflects, “My personal desire was that the album would sound like The Manhattan Transfer, keeping what they’ve done, but bringing a new energy that would come naturally with my strengths as an artist, becoming a part of theirs.”
Defying easy genre categorizations, The Manhattan Transfer became the first act to win Grammy Awards in both the pop and jazz categories in one year (1981): Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for “Boy From New York City,” and Best Jazz Performance Duo or Group for “Until I Met You (Corner Pocket).” In 1985, their album Vocalese made history as the single greatest Grammy-nominated album in history in one year, with 12 nominations. Vocalese earned two Grammys: Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group; and Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices for “Another Night in Tunisia” (won by Bentyne and Bobby McFerrin). This album, which featured jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie, Ron Carter, and the Count Basie Orchestra, changed the perception of The Manhattan Transfer from superstar pop artists to formidable jazz singers.
Learn more at manhattantransfer.net.
Please note that proof of vaccination is required for entry into all McCallum Theatre performances. Masks must be worn at all times. For updated information on health and safety protocols, please visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.
Tickets for this performance are priced at $85, $65 and $45. Tickets are available at www.mccallumtheatre.com or by calling the McCallum Theatre Box Office at (760) 340-2787. The McCallum Theatre, located at 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert CA 92260, accepts payment by cash, personal check, VISA, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.