melodies: The Manhattan Transfer at SCP
by Sarah Bowes
for 30 years The Manhattan Transfer has been singing their hearts
out. Jazz, swing, doo-wop, pop, rock, Brazilian music; theyve
done it all, and along the way have created a devoted fan base
that, like the music, defies any attempt to describe it in terms
of simple demographics.
rock fans, classical fans, jazz fans - it seems that the Transfers
sheer skill and joy in making music appeals to people across the
boards. Theyll all get a chance to gather and appreciate one of
Americas musical treasures when The Manhattan Transfer sings under
the stars at Sedona Cultural Park, June 22.
Janis Siegel, Alan Paul and Laurel Masse came together as The
Manhattan Transfer in 1972 and enjoyed several years of success
in New York nightclubs and in Europe. In 1978, Masse left and
was replaced by Cheryl Bentyne, and the group has remained intact
since. Their first big breakthrough was in 1980 when they released
the album Extensions, which contained the track Birdland. Birdland
remains The Manhattan Transfers signature tune to this day, and
earned them the first two of 12 career Grammy Awards, one for
Best Jazz Fusion Performance and one to Janis Siegel for Best
Arrangement for Voices.
record Vocalese confirmed the groups standing as a musical powerhouse.
Vocalese is a style of music in which a piece originally written
as a jazz instrumental has lyrics added and is re-arranged for
voices. The Manhattan Transfer excelled at it. The music on Vocalese
is breathtakingly, technically complex, but the spirit of the
songs is never obscured by the vocal acrobatics. The album received
12 Grammy nominations, making it second to Michael Jacksons Thriller
as the most-nominated single album in history. It came away with
Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group; and Best Arrangement
for Voices for Cheryl Bentyne and Bobby McFerrin, who collaborated
on the track Another Night in Tunisia.
enough, their exuberant, often humorous performances appeal to
young children as much as seasoned jazz aficionados. This appeal,
in addition to the sheer fun of it, may have been behind their
decision to produce their very well received childrens album in
1995 The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby the Tuba.
Its this universal,
unending appeal that has set Manhattan Transfer apart from almost
every other contemporary jazz or pop artist. Hits like Route 66,
and Boy From New York City tap into much more than a taste for
nostalgia. Theyre great songs, brilliantly sung, with heart, soul
and perhaps most importantly a sense of joy. If these four artists
had loved making music any less, they probably wouldnt be celebrating
their third decade of singing, writing and performing together.
Transfer has certainly played their share of world-class jazz
clubs, but their night at Sedona Cultural Park will be nothing
short of magical. Relaxed, kid-friendly, and with the beauty of
the red rocks and twilight sky all around, the Park just might
be the perfect place to take in the sounds and spirit of this
Sedona Cultural Park has more in store for jazz fans as the summer
progresses. On July 25, they welcome the Duke Ellington Orchestra,
which has been keeping its legendary sound alive for three generations,
first with the Duke himself, then led by his son Mercer, and now
with his grandson Paul. Sedona again becomes host to an American
music legend when the Park presents An Evening with Dave Brubeck,
on August 24. Tickets for The Manhattan Transfer and any other
Cultural Park event can be purchased by calling 1-800-594-TIXX
or 928-203-4TIX, or visiting their Web site (sedonaculturalpark).