Wednesday, 29 May 2024

CyberSoulMan: An evening with The Manhattan Transfer

The Manhattan Transfer performed at Cache Creek Casino Resort on Saturday, May 30, 2009. From left, Tim Hauser, Janis Siegel, Cheryl Bentyne and Alan Paul. Photo courtesy of Cache Creek Casino Resort.

“Hey! Would you all like to come on the road with us?”

Aside to crowd by Manhattan Transfer member Alan Paul after the second standing ovation

At some point on Saturday at Cache Creek Casino Resort, during The Manhattan Transfer’s magnificent reading of their 1980 Grammy award-winning mega hit, “Birdland,” it became apparent to me that all the cats mentioned in the lyrics of the song are now in Bop Heaven. I think the last one standing was the innovative percussion pioneer Max Roach, who ascended in 2007.

It indeed seems like only recently that the Transfer sprang to the top of the charts with their gospel-inflected hit “Operator” from their self-titled album in 1975.

Now, they too have achieved a pinnacle of success that the gone-on masters they swing about have attained.

The Manhattan Transfer is comprised of Tim Hauser, Janis Siegal, Alan Paul and Cheryl Bentyne. They have been together since 1972.

The near-capacity crowd at Cache Creek’s Club 88 was thoroughly and joyfully entertained for 90 minutes. The group sprinkled its offerings with liberal doses of their varied repertoire, which includes many styles such as bop, Brazilian bossa nova, pop, jazz fusion, hard-edged New York R&B and doo-wop. You name it, they claim it.

The group’s set list included, but was not limited to, “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Route 66,” “Doodlin’,” “Java Jive,” “A Tisket, A Tasket,” “Tutu,” “Corner Pocket,” “Hear The Voices” (“Bahia De Todas As Contras”), “Groovin’,” “That’s The Way It Goes,” “The Boy From New York City,” “Soul Food To Go,” “Birdland,” “Tuxedo Junction” and “Baby Come Back To Me.”

The rich diverseness of the roots of their material is augmented by the fact that all of the members can easily swing lead on vocals. Let’s see, twice now in this piece I have purposely used “swing” rather than “sing” as the operative noun to emphasize that the group’s groove is firm entrenched in the jazz idiom and branches out from there.

Some of the brilliant vocal highlights of the members include Cheryl Bentyne’s vocals on “Doodlin’” and Janis Siegal’s stunning performance on Ella Fitzgerals’s “A Tisket, A Tasket,” complete with a wah wah trumpet solo created solely from her voice. (Cheryl Bentyne also reprised the Miles Davis trumpet solo with her voice on “Tutu.”) On the tune “Corner Pocket,” which was written by Count Basie’s guitarist Freddie Green, Alan Paul explained that the original harmony that the group has honed over the years was inspired by Basie’s sax section.

Crowd favorites included “Boy From New York City,” “Groovin’” and the doo-wop classic “Gloria” with lead by Paul and metaphysical period bass vocal by Hauser. The group left the stage to a thunderous standing ovation and returned for an encore of two songs, “Tuxedo Junction” and “Come Back To Me.” The group was onstage 90 minutes.

Club 88 is a tasty environ with a seldom seen “bar in the round” design. Early on Hauser quipped, “This is the first time we’ve played a theater with a bar in the middle.”

That prompted Siegal to kiddingly order a Manhattan which set the vibe for intimate interaction with the crowd. The venue is very listener friendly and the atmosphere of the staff very professional.

The Manhattan Transfer Band consists of Musical Director Yaron Gershovsky, keyboards and piano; Steve Hass, drums and percussion; Adam Hawley on guitar; and Gary Wicks on bass. They are a large part of the Transfer’s signature sound.

With close to 30 albums to their credit, The Manhattan Transfer is always attempting to offer up meaty fare to their listening public.

Their next album will tackle the songbook of the great Chick Corea. If you don’t have any Transfer in your collection that might be a good place to start. Then work backwards and get up to speed.

And the next time they are in these parts, check them out. You won’t regret it.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at





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