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Manhattan Transfer

Four gifted artists, four separate styles, but together they will always be one of the industries most flamboyant, charismatic, feel good architects of song to hit the circuit in the past three decades. Some may feel that the Manhattan Transfer had their day in the sun and may be setting for them now. How misguided these poor, unfocused evaluators are. Manhattan Transfer has rekindled new life with that indistinguishable elegance as they introduce their new project (after a four year hiatus) "Vibrate," released by Telarc in September. Tim Hauser, Janis Siegel, Cheryl Bentyne and Alan Paul are perfect templates for any performer looking to generate genuine energy, while embracing an eclectic nature.

In short, "Vibrate" is a stunning piece to come back into the public’s eye with. It is very reminiscent of the start up projects early in Manhattan Transfer’s career. Walkin' in N.Y. is pure Manhattan Transfer harmonic perfection with a very cool but smooth touch, an outstanding standing-ovation performance! Title cut, Vibrate, is exquisite and deserves its billing, again the harmony just surges out of the speakers, reaffirming the excellence always present on their stage.

For Tim Hauser and Alan Paul, the Manhattan Transfer experience is full of countless successes. However, did they ever expect the Transfer to have this 30-plus year journey? "I never really looked ahead that far. I never imagined we would last this long," Tim recalls. "In a way, it was like a workshop. The idea of putting a band together with men and women afforded more possibilities." This is what Tim focused on in the beginning, never the notion of could we-can we. Alan, too, was surprised at the outcome. "No, I did not expect us to be together this long. I thought it was a great idea! When we first got together, I was doing Grease on Broadway. I was bored. When this came in my path, it was exciting. I love the concept of harmony," Alan explains. "I think all of us were amazed."

Like many entertainers out of the gate, that quest to capture the moment when they feel the "groove to success" hit is highly anticipated. Alan recalls when he knew the Manhattan Transfer had made it. "When we saw the reaction we were getting playing in New York, we started gigging and saw the reaction from the crowds. I then knew we had something going on." For Tim is was a bit different. "I think it was our fifth album, "Extensions," in 1980. That was the album that has Birdland on it. Twilight Zone, that was a big turning point for us," Tim recalls. "We became stars in Europe with our previous albums, but with "Extensions," in England it bombed! In America and Japan, it really turned it around for us. That album won us our first Grammy for Birdland and gave us a different level of believability," says Tim.

Years later, with Grammy’s in hand and their craft finely tuned, "Vibrate" enters into the mix of Manhattan Transfer’s musical memoirs. Tim and Alan recall the birth of this 2004 project. Tim did not want to do that kind of album as he eloquently explains. "I wanted to do another vocalese album. The communal sensibility was to do an eclectic album. It was the first non-somatic album we did in about twenty years. We had a long string of successes with somatic albums starting around 1985," Tim examines. "Vibrate" is really a throw back to the first five or six albums we made that were all a mish-mash of tunes that were stylistically unrelated just things that we really liked so we did them. Each person brought something to the table. That is what "Vibrate" is," says Tim.

Alan passionately states how excited he was with the "Vibrate" project. "Vibrate" is eclectic and at this juncture, it was very satisfying to us. It brought in many different styles of music," Alan describes. "I got turned on to Rufus Wainwright when he came out with Poses, The Greek Song and Vibrate. They are Rufus tunes, some of my favorites." No one is going to doubt that this project is so very early Tranferesque in nature with a high quality of harmonics and tempos.

Walkin’ in N.Y., one of the project’s most talked about cuts, is discussed by Tim with a great deal of fervor. "Janis came up with that piece. Janis is a friend of Brenda Russell, a great singer/songwriter who was nominated for a Grammy in 1987 for Piano in the Dark." Brenda had made that record on an album of hers, but it did not go anywhere. Janis took it to us," Tim states. "I mixed this album. We all produced it, but I mixed it. And I mixed Walkin’ in N.Y." about six times," say Tim. "To me, it was so important a record, it was a throw back to the days when I was mixing a record to get on the charts. On some tunes I would obsess and listen to it like a dog. If it didn’t come out right, we did it again. That was this record. It was that important," says Tim. This cut is one that makes you want to get out and enjoy life. It’s that dynamic of a piece.

Doodlin’," another exciting cut on this project, will have strong appeal for Transfer fans. High energy with twist as Tim explains, "Doodlin’ is interesting because it is one of the first ten songs we learned in our repertoire, going back to 1972-73. We did it through the years, but never recorded it. I recently received a tape recording of one of the first performances we gave," Tim reminisces. "This was back before we were even together a year and Doodlin’ was on the set. But we wanted to come up with a way to it that was different. So we get into the studio to record Doodlin’ and laid this one track down that was this whole different vibe and sound. It blew us away! I think artistically Doodlin’ is one of the best things on our album a solid piece of jazz," says Tim.

"Vibrate" as a whole, is one solid piece of jazz with a sound never too old and always very bold. These four breathtaking vocalists have presented a fine tuned piece of eclectic ingenuity that is far above most of what is on the shelf today.

As for the future of Manhattan Transfer, Alan tells us their efforts and talents are still in high gear coming into the holiday season. "We are just finishing up a new Christmas CD, an acappella Christmas. It is going to be released in Japan in 2004 and in the U.S. in 2005," Alan states. "We are doing it in Japan first because we are doing it with King Records out of Japan. We also did not want to release it back-to-back with "Vibrate." So the ideas and wheels of the Manhattan Transfer are very much in motion.

Karl Stober is an international freelance columnist and broadcaster who can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Karl can also be reached at 1-802-380-6065.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Manhattan Transfer
  • Interview Date: 11/1/2004
  • Subtitle: Between Sets with Tim Hauser and Alan Paul - Three Decades and Still Vibrating with Intensity!
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