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The Manhattan Transfer

The Manhattan Transfer is an American vocal music group. There have been two manifestations of the group, with Tim Hauser being the only person to be part of both. The group’s name comes from John Dos Passos’ 1925 novel Manhattan Transfer and refers to their New York origins.

Founding

The first manifestation of the group was established during 1969 in New York City by Tim Hauser, Erin Dickins, Marty Nelson, and Pat Rosalia. Gene Pistilli, a good friend, soon became an integral component, and composed for and recorded with the group. They contracted with Capitol Records, recorded several tracks, and during 1971 issued their first album, Jukin’. The album was later reissued in the UK by EMI’s Music for Pleasure under the title The Manhattan Transfer and Gene Pistilli[1][2] Pistilli had been best known for his performing and songwriting collaborations with Terry Cashman and Tommy West. This team endured only until 1972. According to Hauser, "Gene and I were in two different places. He was more into R&B, and the Memphis sound, and by then I’d become more interested in jazz and swing..

Second line-up

The next line-up of the group was formed in 1972 by Tim Hauser with singers Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, and Laurel Massé. After performances at Max’s Kansas City, Trude Heller’s and Reno Sweeney with Herb Abramson’s A-1 Sound engineer Jim Reeves in New York City, the group developed a cult fan base. Ahmet Ertegün, founder and chairman of Atlantic Records, saw them at Reno Sweeney and offered a recording contract. The group’s first album for Atlantic was The Manhattan Transfer in 1975, which included their first successful single, the gospel tune "Operator". During the summer of 1975, the group were showcased in their own hour-long television variety series on CBS.

They also gained a following in Europe, where their next two albums, Coming Out and Pastiche, brought a string of hits. One was a revival of Wayne Shanklin’s "Chanson D’Amour", which became a number one hit in the UK and Australia in 1977, though it failed to chart in the US. These were followed by a live album, The Manhattan Transfer Live, which was recorded in the UK and reached the UK Top 5.

Third line-up and journey into jazz

Soon after that album was recorded, during 1978, Laurel Massé was badly injured in a car accident and was replaced by Cheryl Bentyne. The line-up has remained the same since then.

Their next album, Extensions, was released in 1979 and earned the group their second U.S. popular music success, the disco 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.[4] The track also reached the Top 30 in the UK, where the group continued to make several appearances on popular television shows such as The Two Ronnies.

Extensions also featured a cover of Weather Report’s "Birdland", with lyrics by Jon Hendricks. One of the most popular jazz recordings of 1980, "Birdland" brought the group their first Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance), and Janis Siegel was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices for her arrangement of "Birdland".

During 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. Boy from New York City and Other Hits (a cover of the 1965 success by The Ad Libs) reached the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 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 for Best Jazz Performance, Duo or Group. Both of these songs appeared on the group’s fifth album, Mecca for Moderns.

During 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 was featured on the soundtrack to the Burt Reynolds film Sharky’s Machine

Stretching out

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 #2 hit "Spice of Life", which was co-written by Rod Temperton who had penned several hits for Michael Jackson. The single also reached #40 on the US pop chart and #19 in the UK. The other single, the ballad "Mystery" (#80 R&B, #102 Pop), was later recorded by Anita Baker on her 1986 album Rapture.

In 1985, the group released two albums – the first being Bop Doo-Wopp, an album that included both live and studio recordings. The group’s next album, 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 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 as Vocalese Live.

For their next album, 1987’s 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.

The group did not release any more studio albums 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 the Atlantic company 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.

Stretching out

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 #2 hit "Spice of Life", which was co-written by Rod Temperton who had penned several hits for Michael Jackson. The single also reached #40 on the US pop chart and #19 in the UK. The other single, the ballad "Mystery" (#80 R&B, #102 Pop), was later recorded by Anita Baker on her 1986 album Rapture.

In 1985, the group released two albums – the first being Bop Doo-Wopp, an album that included both live and studio recordings. The group’s next album, 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 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 as Vocalese Live.

For their next album, 1987’s 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.

The group did not release any more studio albums 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 the Atlantic company 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.

Recent activity

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 the album Vibrate. This was another one of their “pastiche� albums, blending original tunes with older ones, pop, jazz, funk, etc. Vibrate featured such notable musicians as bassist Will Lee, and renowned time keeper Steve Hass on drums.

They also released (in Japan originally) their second holiday album, An Acapella Christmas, in 2005. The album was released in the US 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 time with Atlantic Records. 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, and was broadcasted by PBS in select locations.

Their band’s latest album, The Chick Corea Songbook, is a tribute to the works of American jazz musician Chick Corea and was released in September 2009. The album features an appearance by Corea himself on the track "Free Samba". Other notable musicians on this recording are Airto Moreira, Scott Kinsey, Gary Novak, Steve Hass, Alex Acuna, Jimmy Earl, John Benitez, and Christian McBrid

Discography

[edit] Albums

Album Date Released Charts

Jukin’ 1971 US #202

The Manhattan Transfer 1975 US #33, UK #49 (1977 release)

Coming Out 1976 US #48, UK #12

Pastiche 1978 US #66, UK #10

The Manhattan Transfer Live UK #4

Extensions 1979 US #55, UK #63

Mecca for Moderns 1981 US #22

The Best of the Manhattan Transfer US #103

Bodies and Souls 1983 US #57, UK #53

Bop Doo-Wopp 1985 US #127

Vocalese US #74

Live 1987 US #187

Brasil US #98

The Offbeat of Avenues 1991 US #179

The Christmas Album 1992 US #120

Anthology: Down In Birdland

The Very Best of the Manhattan Transfer 1994 US #157

The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby the Tuba

Tonin’ 1995 US #123

Man-Tora! Live in Tokyo 1996

Swing 1997

Boy From New York City And Other Hits

The Spirit of St. Louis 2000

Couldn’t Be Hotter 2003

Vibrate 2004

An Acapella Christmas 2005

The Symphony Sessions 2006

The Definitive Pop Collection

The Chick Corea Songbook 2009

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