The Manhattan Transfer

The Manhattan Transfer

Manhattan Transfer from left to right: Janis Siegel, Cheryl Bentyne, Alan Paul, and Tim Hauser
Background information
Origin New York City, New York, U.S.
Genres A cappella, jazz fusion, pop
Years active 1969–1971, 1972–1973, 1973–present
Labels Capitol, Music for Pleasure, Atlantic, Telarc
Members Alan Paul
Janis Siegel
Cheryl Bentyne
Trist Curless
Yaron Gershovsky (piano/music director)[1]
Past members Tim Hauser (deceased)
Erin Dickins
Marty Nelson
Gene Pistilli
Pat Rosalia (deceased)
Laurel Massé

The Manhattan Transfer is an American a cappella, jazz fusion/pop music group founded in 1969 in New York City and still active in the 2010s. There have been two editions of the group, with Tim Hauser being the only person to be part of both. The first group consisted of Hauser, Erin Dickins, Marty Nelson, Pat Rosalia and Gene Pistilli. The second version of the group, formed in 1973, consisted of Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel and Laurel Massé. In 1978, after Massé was badly injured in a car accident, she was replaced by Cheryl Bentyne. The group's long-time pianist, Yaron Gershovsky, accompanied the group on tour and served as music director. Trist Curless from the Los Angeles a cappella group m-pact became a permanent member in October 2014 following Hauser's death.[2]

The group won various Grammy Awards in the 1980s. The group won its first Grammys in 1980 for their cover of Weather Report's "Birdland". Their recording earned them their first Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance and the group's first Grammy Award for Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices, to Janis Siegel for her arrangement of the song. Their cover of "The Boy from New York City", won them the Grammy 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. In 1982, the group won another Grammy for its rendition of "Route 66". In 1985, the group won Grammys in two categories: Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group, and Best Arrangement for Voices. The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998.


The group's name comes from John Dos Passos' 1925 novel Manhattan Transfer and refers to the group's New York City origins. The first manifestation of the group was established in 1969 in New York City by Tim Hauser, Erin Dickins, Marty Nelson, and Pat Rosalia. Gene Pistilli soon became an integral member, both composing for and recording with the group. They contracted to Capitol Records, recorded several tracks and issued their first album, Jukin', in 1971. The album was later reissued in the United Kingdom by EMI's Music for Pleasure label under the title The Manhattan Transfer and Gene Pistilli.[3][4] Pistilli had been best known for his performing and songwriting collaborations with Terry Cashman and Tommy West. This team lasted until 1973. 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..."[5]

Second line-up

The next line-up of the group was formed in 1973 by Tim Hauser with singers Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, and Laurel Massé. After successful performances at Max's Kansas City, the group began to develop a cult fan base. Ahmet Ertegün, founder and chairman of Atlantic Records, saw them at Reno Sweeney and offered the group a recording contract. The group's first album for Atlantic was The Manhattan Transfer (1975), which included their first successful single, the gospel music tune "Operator". During the summer of 1975, the group was 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 U.S. 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

In 1978, soon after that album was recorded, Laurel Massé was badly injured in a car accident and was replaced by Cheryl Bentyne. The line-up remained the same, with their long-time pianist, Yaron Gershovsky, accompanying them on tour and serving as music director until Hauser's death in 2014.[6]

Their next album, Extensions (1979), earned the group their second U.S. popular music success, as it included 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.[7] 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 jazz fusion group 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".

In 1981, The Manhattan Transfer released a "Best Of" album, and they also made music history by becoming the first group to win Grammy awards for both popular and jazz categories in the same year. "The Boy from New York City", 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. In 1982, the group won another Grammy, for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group, for its rendition of "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 No. 2 hit "Spice of Life", which was co-written by former Heatwave member Rod Temperton who had penned several hits for Michael Jackson. The single also reached No. 40 on the US pop chart and No. 19 in the UK. The other single, the ballad "Mystery" (#80 R&B, No. 102 Pop), was later covered by Anita Baker on her 1986 album Rapture.

In 1985, the group released two albums; the first was Bop Doo-Wopp, which included both live and studio recordings, and the second was Vocalese, which 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 Vocalese Live.

For their next album, Brasil (1987), 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 studio albums again 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 Atlantic 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.

Since 2000

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 Vibrate, another one of their “pastiche” albums, blending original tunes with older ones, pop, jazz and funk. Vibrate featured notable musicians such as bassist Will Lee and Steve Hass on drums. They also released, first in Japan, their second holiday album, An Acapella Christmas, in 2005. The album was released in the U.S. 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 broadcast by PBS in select locations.

The Chick Corea Songbook, a tribute to the works of American jazz musician Chick Corea, was released in September 2009. The album features an appearance by Corea himself on the track "Free Samba". Other prominent musicians on this recording are Airto Moreira, Scott Kinsey, Steve Hass, Alex Acuña, Jimmy Earl, John "Jellybean" Benitez, and bassist Christian McBride.

In 2011, The Manhattan Transfer worked on an album of previously recorded, but never finished, songs to honor their 40th anniversary. “We are working on a project now that is called The Vaults. Over the years, there are a lot of different songs that we recorded but never finished. We pull out from the archives a lot of these songs and are finishing them,” said Alan Paul in an interview for Jazz FM radio in Bulgaria.[8] One of the highlights of the album will be a vocalese version of George and Ira Gershwin’s The Man I Love, based on an Artie Shaw and his orchestra performance of the composition, which had been slated for the Swing album. “I wrote lyrics to Artie Shaw’s clarinet solo and then to all the other parts underneath. We become the vocal orchestra for Artie Shaw’s orchestra. The rhythm track was done with Ray Brown on bass, Yaron Gershovsky – our musical director – on piano, David Hungate on guitar and Duffy Jackson on drums. It was a wonderful track and we never got to do the vocals. So now we are in the studio putting down the vocals. This is like a dream come true for me because it is such an incredibly beautiful piece of music. After all these years to finally hear it being finished and done, is really wonderful”, said Alan Paul.

Substitutes and Fourth Permanent Line-up

Members of the group have been temporarily replaced for times during this period. In 2011, while undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Cheryl Bentyne was replaced on stage for eight months by the soprano Margaret Dorn. Dorn again replaced her in December 2013 while Bentyne underwent further treatment.[9] In the later part of 2013, Tim Hauser also had to be absent from the stage in 2013 and early 2014 as he recovered from spinal surgery; he was replaced on stage by bass/baritone Trist Curless of the Los Angeles a cappella group, m-pact.

In September 2013, one of the original members of the group, Erin Dickins, started a Kickstarter campaign to fund a re-recording by all of the surviving original members of the group of their hit single "Java Jive". The project was successfully funded on October 9, 2013.[10] Original member Pat Rosalia died from cancer in July 2011, while Tim Hauser died on October 16, 2014 of cardiac arrest.

Following Hauser's death, the group announced shortly afterwards Curless replaced Hauser as a regular member of the group, forming the new configuration.[11]



Album Date released Charts
Jukin' 1971 US No. 202
The Manhattan Transfer 1975 US No. 33, UK No. 49 (1977 release)
Coming Out 1976 US No. 48, UK No. 12, AU No. 29
Pastiche 1978 US No. 66, UK No. 10, AU No. 39
The Manhattan Transfer Live UK No. 4, AU No. 71
Extensions 1979 US No. 55, UK No. 63, AU No. 91
Mecca for Moderns 1981 US No. 22, AU No. 65
The Best of the Manhattan Transfer US No. 103, AU No. 27
Bodies and Souls 1983 US No. 57, UK No. 53, AU No. 75
Bop Doo-Wopp 1984 US No. 127
Vocalese US No. 74
Live 1987 US No. 187
Brasil US No. 98
The Offbeat of Avenues 1991 US No. 179
The Christmas Album 1992 US No. 120
Anthology: Down In Birdland
The Very Best of the Manhattan Transfer 1994 US No. 157
The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby the Tuba
Tonin' 1995 US No. 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



Year Song US Hot 100 U.S. AC UK Singles Chart[12] Canada
1975 "Operator" 22 34 - 26
1976 "Tuxedo Junction" - - 24 -
1977 "Chanson D'Amour" - 16 1 -
"Don't Let Go" - - 32 -
1978 "Walk In Love" - - 12
"On a Little Street in Singapore" - - 20 -
"Where Did Our Love Go/Je Voulais Te Dire (Que Je T'Attends)" - - 40
1979 "Who What Where When Why" - - 49 -
1980 "Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone" 30 - 25 -
"Trickle Trickle" 73 - - -
1981 "The Boy from New York City" 7 4 - 8
"Smile Again" - 41 - -
1982 "Spies in the Night" 103 - - -
"Route 66" 78 22 - -
1983 "Spice of Life" 40 5 19 -
1984 "Mystery" 102 6 - -
"Baby Come Back to Me (The Morse Code of Love)" 83 14 - -
1987 "Soul Food to Go (Sina)" - 25 - -
1995 "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" (with Phil Collins) - 27 -

Guest/soundtrack appearances


  2. Manhattan Transfer, November 1, 2013. "Ladies and Gentlemen ... Trist Curless!". Manhattan Transfer Official Site. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  3. Richard S. Ginell. "Jukin' - The Manhattan Transfer - Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  4. "Rate your music". Rate your music. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  5. "Manhattan Transfer fan club site". Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  6. "yaron gershovsky - The Manhattan Transfer". Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  7. The introduction of the song is incorrectly attributed in the liner notes to Bernard Herrmann, who wrote the theme for Season 1 of The Twilight Zone only. The more famous Twilight Zone theme that is used in the Manhattan Transfer song was composed by Marius Constant.
  8. Archived April 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. Manhattan Transfer, November 28, 2013. "Ladies and Gentlemen ... Margaret Dorn!". Manhattan Transfer Official Site. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  10. Dickins Geyelin, Erin. ""Java Jive" Jazz for Foodies". Kickstarter. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  11. Manhattan Transfer, November 1, 2013. "Ladies and Gentlemen ... Trist Curless!". Manhattan Transfer Official Site. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  12. 1 2 Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 346. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
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