Manhattan Transfer

By Janet Wolfe

Manhattan Transfer bebopped through town and paused to jam with the Louisville Pops at the Palace, Oct. 16. It was hard to choose between all the theater and musical pleasures around on such a nice autumn evening. I opted for the carefree, classic vocal sound of the Manhattan Transfer, celebrating their 25th anniversary and a new release coming out from Atlantic simply titled Swing.

The Louisville Pops, conducted by Bob Bernhardt, opened the evening with the New York favorites of Bernstein and Duke Ellington. With Leonard Bernstein being one of the finest composers, I enjoyed the "West Side Story" musical odyssey and three dances from "On the Town." The medley of Duke Ellington songs showcased some of his hits, including "Misty,""Take the A Train" and "Carnival." The Pops were pleasing in their rendition of "New York, New York." The orchestra was entertaining and the crowd enjoyed their lighter side.

After a brief intermission, the Pops really let their hair down to accompany Manhattan Transfer in one of the vocal group's few appearance with a full orchestra. In addition, the Manhattan Transfer brought a trio of keyboard, percussion and upright bass for some of their deeper jazz. These vocal masters were voted Best Vocal Group of the 1980s.

For all these years, this quartet has excelled in lush harmonies that still seem quite effortless. Through the years they have explored Latin music, jazz and swing and are still a class act. The song that I appreciated the most was "Airegin," which is Nigeria spelled backwards. This fast and furious tune featured a great scat by Cheryl Bentyne and a terrific solo by their bass player, Michael Bouey.

The slow and dreamy "Nuage" pictures clouds. Janis Siegal, known for "The Boy From New York City," sang a great version of Ella Fitzgerald's famous "A Tisket, A Tasket," which will be on their upcoming album. The new Swing album will range from urban hot jazz to rural camptown meetings with a stomp.

The Manhattan Transfer is noted for their velvet harmonies. Some of the best known hits they performed were "Operator,""Route 66" and "Java Jive." The males in this group are baritone Alan Paul and bass Tim Hauser. This group's distinct four-part harmonies seem easy as the quartet melts into many more tonal depths.

I have enjoyed past concerts with the Manhattan Transfer, often playing only with their combo, which gave them the opportunity to flesh out more hits from deep in their history. Some of those many standard tunes like "Birdland" and the "Twilight Zone" were sorely missed. But then again, I have been seeing the Manhattan Transfer perform live for over fifteen years, and I always have wanted to hear more.

On the other side, the eighty-piece orchestra was a rare opportunity for the group to serve up romantic ballads with the sound only live strings can give. "Nightingale Sang In Barkley Square" served as the encore alongside "Goodnight," made famous by the Beatles.

It was a relaxing, carefree evening which brought back good memories of great vocal jazz and made me forget the non-singing world outside of the Palace.