It’s been nearly forty years since Tim Hauser, a former Madison Avenue marketing executive, paid his bills by driving a New York City cab while aspiring to form a harmony vocal quartet sui generis that could authentically embrace varied musical styles, and still create something wholly unique in the field of American popular song.

Hauser had been in doo-wop groups, folk groups, and even in a short-lived quintet named The Manhattan Transfer, but as the sounds of jazz, R&B, pop, rock ‘n’ roll, salsa and swing poured out of brownstones, Hauser now dreamt of four-part harmonies without limits.

In the Fall of 1972, Hauser’s taxi fare was an aspiring young singer named Laurel Massé, who was familiar with the sole album by Hauser’s earlier Manhattan Transfer combo, and was looking to form a group. A few weeks later, another of Hauser’s fares invited him to a party where he met Brooklyn native Janis Siegel; although already in a group, Siegel agreed to help out on some demos and before long she was the third member of The Manhattan Transfer. As Hauser, Massé and Siegel began rehearsing, Massé’s then-boyfriend, who was drumming in a Broadway pit band, introduced Hauser and Siegel to Alan Paul, who was co-starring in the original production of Grease, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Tim, Janis, Alan and Laurel

In 1974 the group began performing regularly throughout New York City at Trude Hellers, Mercer Arts Center, Max’s Kansas City, Club 82, and other cutting edge cabaret venues. By the end of the year they were the number one live attraction in New York City, prompting Newsweek to send a writer to their show at Reno Sweeney’s in Greenwich Village to report on this growing phenomenon.

Signed to Atlantic Records by the legendary head of the label, Ahmet Ertegun, the group released their self-titled debut in 1975; the second single from the album, a remake of the Friendly Brothers gospel classic “Operator,” gave the group their first national hit. “Operator” took radio stations by storm, from the opening four-part a cappella intro to Siegel’s emotional lead vocal, eventually peaking in the Top 20.

As “Operator” rose up the charts, the group was invited to make guest appearances on various variety shows and television specials. Hollywood took notice; and the band was soon tapped to helm a weekly hour-long summer replacement comedy-variety show. The Manhattan Transfer show premiered on August 10, 1975, broadcast in CBS’ old Ed Sullivan time slot, Sunday nights at 8:00PM. Despite censors restricting performances of some of their more risqué songs (“Well Well Well, My Cat Fell In The Well”), and some in the writing staff trying to appeal to youngsters who normally watched The Wonderful World of Disney at that hour, the band still managed to do some wonderful things including featuring Bob Marley and the Wailers in their first US television appearance.

Their next two albums, Coming Out and Pastiche, brought them a string of Top 10 hits in Europe and produced a #1 smash in Britain and France with “Chanson d’Amour.”

Cheryl Bentyne

In 1978, Massé was injured in a car accident and during her convalescence, decided not to rejoin the group that had since moved to California. One of many who auditioned for her slot was Cheryl Bentyne, a stunning singer from Mt. Vernon, Washington, and a four-year veteran of The New Deal Rhythm Band. At Bentyne’s dazzling audition, the other Manhattan Transfer members immediately felt her impact, invited her to join, and, as Paul puts it, “The Transfer’s second phase began.”

The first album featuring the now legendary quartet of Hauser, Siegel, Paul & Bentyne was 1979’s Extensions which earned the band another smash (#1 in New York and #2 in Los Angeles) with “Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone” – their updated take on, and, if you will, extension of, the theme to the Rod Serling hosted program of the same name. The album also featured a vocal remake of the Weather Report classic “Birdland,” with lyrics by Jon Hendricks, that would go on to be recognized as the group’s anthem, and earn them their first two Grammy Awards for Best Jazz Fusion Performance, Vocal or Instrumental and Best Arrangement For Voices for Siegel’s work on the song.

The group went from strength to strength, when in 1981, they became the first group ever to win Grammy Awards in both Pop and Jazz categories in the same year – Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for “Boy From New York City,” and Best Jazz Performance, Duo or Group for “Until I Met You (Corner Pocket),” both from their fifth studio long player, Mecca for Moderns.

In 1982 and 1983 the group won consecutive Grammy Awards in the Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group category for, respectively, “Route 66” and “Why Not!”

The critical praise and commercial success of the group’s first seven studio albums could hardly have prepared them for the monumental 12 Grammy nominations they received in 1985 for the album Vocalese. Those 12 nominations made Vocalese the single greatest Grammy nominated album in one year, and cemented the group’s status as one of the most important and innovative vocal groups in the history of popular music.

Not willing, or able, to rest on their laurels, the band’s next studio album was the ground breaking Brasil. Much as the seminal Getz/Gilberto album 23 years earlier had introduced American audiences to the talents of Brazilian songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim, Brasil introduced audiences to the next generation of tropical talent – featuring songs by Ivan Lins, Milton Nascimento, Djavan, and Gilberto Gil. The album won the Grammy for Best Pop Peformance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

The Manhattan Transfer closed out the decade by completing a ten-year sweep (1980-1990) as the “Best Vocal Group” in both the annual DownBeat and Playboy jazz polls.

In the 1990s, the group’s restless creative energy found them writing more original material (The Offbeat Of Avenues which earned them yet another Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance), and tackling seasonal standards (The Christmas Album arranged by Johnny Mandel, became one of the five best selling Christmas albums on Columbia – the label with the largest Christmas catalogue, and is an annual shopping mall favorite to this day), children’s music (The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby The Tuba), 1950’s & 1960’s popular music (Tonin’), and, foreshadowing the success of “Dancing With The Stars,” different genres of swing music (Swing).

If one is judged by the company they keep, this decade found the group recording with some impressive company indeed – Tony Bennett, Bette Midler, Smokey Robinson, Laura Nyro, Phil Collins, B.B. King, Chaka Khan, James Taylor, and the original Jersey Boy, Frankie Valli.

Heading into the new millennium, with worldwide sales in the millions, Grammy Awards by the dozen, and as veterans of sold-out world tours, The Manhattan Transfer once again proved their uncanny knack for being ahead of the times by teaming up with the then relatively unknown, but future Grammy Award winning, producer Craig Street to record their tribute to the music of Louis Armstrong (The Spirit Of St. Louis).

The Spirit Of St. Louis was followed by 2003’s live album Couldn’t Be Hotter that “finally captured the magic of their live performances on disc” (AllMusic), 2004’s Vibrate, a second foray into Christmas music (An Acapella Christmas), and an album of newly recorded symphonic versions of some of their greatest hits (2006’s The Symphony Sessions).

The release of The Definitive Pop Collection, a 2-disc retrospective of the group’s greatest hits, provides not only an opportunity to look back at one of the greatest bodies of work in American popular music, but also the chance to look ahead to 2008, the 35th Anniversary of a group that is restless, adventurous, limitless and, as the Philadelphia Inquirer so aptly put it, a group that “still can sound dangerous!”

Read more about The Manhattan Transfer at the official website.

Selected Discography

The Offbeat Of Avenues

Columbia Records 1991

Tracks: The Offbeat of Avenues, Sassy, 10 Minutes Till the Savages Come, What Goes Around Comes Around, Blue Serenade, Gentleman with a Family, Women in Love, A World Apart, Confide in Me, T Quietude (Encuentro de Animales) & Blues for Pablo.

Musicians on the Offbeat Of Avenues album: Cheryl Bentyne, Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, Grady Tate, Connie Kay, Jeff Porcaro, John Robinson, Jamie Glaser, Herb Pedersen, Harvie Swartz, Alex Blake, Alec Milstein, Leland Sklar, Chuck Jonkey, Jeff Lorber, John Beasley, Bill Bodine, Don Freeman, Les Pierce, Frank Colon, Yaron Gershovsky, Mike Finnigan, Peter Christlie, Richard Elliott, Lew Soloff, Gregory Davis, Gary Grant, Jerry Hey, Roger Lewis & Efrem Towns.


Atlantic Records 1987

Tracks: Soul Food to Go, The Zoo Blues, So You Say, Capim, Metropolis, Hear the Voices, Agua, The Jungle Pioneer & Notes From the Underground.

Musicians on the Brasil album: Cheryl Bentyne, Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, John Robinson, Buddy Williams, Victor Biglione, Toninho Horta, Wayne Johnson, Oscar Castro-Neves, Dan Huff, Nathan East, Abraham Laboriel, Yaron Gershovsky, Jeff Lorber, Larry Williams, Frank Colon, Djalma Correa, Paulinho Da Costa, Stan Getz, Davis Sanborn, Djavan & Milton Nascimento.



Atlantic Records 1985

Tracks: That's Killer Joe, Rambo, Airegin, To You, Meet Benny Bailey, Another Night in Tunisia, Ray's Rockhouse, Blee Blop Blues, Oh Yes I Remember Clifford, Sing Joy Spring & Move.

Musicians on the Vocalese album: Cheryl Bentyne, Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, John Robinson, Grady Tate, Ralph Humprey, Phily Joe Jones, Wayne Johnson, Freddie Green, Ray Brown, Alex Blake, Richard Davis, Ron Carter, John Patitucci, Tommy Flanagan, McCoy Tyner, Dick Hindman, Yaron Gershovsky, Casey Young, James Moody, Richie Cole, Marshal Royal, Danny House, Kenny Hing, Bob Ojeda, Sonny Cohn, Johhny Coles, Mel Wanzo, Jon Hendricks & Bobby McFerrin.


Bodies And Souls

Atlantic Records 1983

Tracks: Spice of Life, This Independence, Mystery, American Pop, Soldier of Fortune, Code of Ethics, Malaise en Malaisie, Down South Camp Meetin', Why Not!, Goodbye Love & The Night That Monk Returned to Heaven.

Musicians on the Bodies And Souls album: Cheryl Bentyne, Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, John Robinson, Jeff Porcaro, Art Rodriguez, Carlos Vega, David Williams, Kevin Clark, Wayne Johnson, Neil Stubenhaus, Larry Williams, Nathan East, Alex Blake, Abraham Laboriel, Greg Phillinganes, Yaron Gershovsky, Jeremy Lubbock, Casey Young, Pete Robinson, Greg Phillinganes, Michael Boddicker, Greg Mathieson, Stevie Wonder, Ernie Watts, Paulinho Da Costa, Jerry Hey, Gary Grant, Bill Reichenbach & Gary Herbig.

Mecca For Moderns

Atlantic Records 1981

Tracks: On The Boulevard, Boy From New York City, (Wanted) Dead Or Alive, Spies In The Night, Smile Again, Until I Met You (Corner Pocket), (The Word Of) Confirmation, Kafka & A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square.

Musicians on the Mecca For Moderns album: Cheryl Bentyne, Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, Alex Acuna, Michael Baird, Michael Boddicker, Richie Cole, Victor Feldman, David Foster, Steve Gadd, Steve George, Yaron Gershovsky, Jay Graydon, Jon Hendricks, Jerry Hey, Abraham Laboriel, Milcho Leliev, Steve Lukather, Greg Mathieson, Andy Narrell, Michael Omartian, Dean Parks, Don Roberts, Tom Scott & Al Viola.


Atlantic Records 1979

Tracks: Birdland, Wacky Dust, Nothin' You Can Do About It, Coo Coo U, Body And Soul, Twilight Zone / Twilight Tone, Trickle Trickle, Shaker Song & Foreign Affair.

Musicians on the Extensions album: Cheryl Bentyne, Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, Alex Acuna, Michael Boddicker, Richie Cole, Paulinho Da Costa, Chuck Domanico, David Foster, Jay Graydon, David Hungate, Ralph Humphrey, Abraham Laboriel, Steve Lukather, Greg Mathieson, Bill Mays, Andy Muson, Michael Omartian, Dean Parks, Jeff Porcaro, Don Roberts, Ian Underwood, Jaï Winding & Jimmy Wyble.


Atlantic Records 1978

Tracks: Four Brothers, A Gal In Galico, Love For Sale, Je Voulais (Te Dire Que Je T'attends), On A Little Street In Singapore, In A Mellow Tone, Walk In Love, Who What When Where Why, It's Not The Spotlight, Pieces Of Dreams & Where Did Our Love Go.

Musicians on the Pastice album: Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Laurel Massé, Janis Siegel, Wayne Andre, John Barnes, Ben Benay, Michael Boddicker, Randy Brecker, Al Cohn, Steve Cropper, Lew Del Gatto, Donald Dunn, Scott Edwards, Victor Feldman, David Foster, Dick Frank, David Frishberg, Steve Gadd, Jim Gordon, Jay Graydon, Don Grolnick, Bobbye Hall, Willie Hall, Booker T. Jones, Lee Konitz, Jon Mayer, Mike Melvoin, Andy Muson, Ira Newborn, Michael Omartian, Jeff Porcaro, Don Roberts, Art Rodriguez, Steve Schaeffer, Marvin Stamm, Richard Tee, Tommy Vig, Peter Wade & Stu Woods.

Coming Out

Atlantic Records 1976

Tracks: Don't Let Go, Zindy Lou, Chanson D'amour, Helpless, Scotch and Soda, The Speak Up Mambo, Poinciana (The Song Of The Tree), S.O.S., Popsicle Toes, It Would't Have Made Any Difference & The Thought Of Loving You.

Musicians on the Coming Out album: Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, Laurel Massé, Tim Hauser, Jim Keltner, Jim Gordon, Ringo Starr, David Kemper, Roy Markowitz, Rick Schlosser, Ben Benay, Bob Bowles, Andy Muson, Dr. John, John Barnes, Arthur Jenkins, Mike Melvoin, Bill Payne, Roger Steinman, Paul Griffin, Dave Frishberg, Ralph MacDonald, Bobbye Hall, Clarence McDonald, Nicky Marrero, Bobbye Porter, Michael Brecker, Jackie Kelso, Jay Migliori & Randy Brecker.

The Manhattan Transfer

Atlantic Records 1975

Tracks: Tuxedo Junction, Sweet Talking Guy, Operator, Candy, Gloria, Clap Your hands, That Cat Is High, You Can Depend On Me, Blue Champagne, Java Jive, Occapella & Heart's Desire.

Musicians on the Manhattan Transfer album are: Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, Laurel Massé, Tim Hauser, Roy Markowitz, Ira Newborn, Jerry Friedman, Andy Muson, Don Grolnick, Murray Weinstock, Richard Tee, Mike Rod, Michael Brecker, Zoot Sims, Randy Brecker, Mel Davis, John Faddis, Bob McCoy, Marvin Stamm, Alan Rubin, Wayne Andre, Garnett Brown, Alan Raph, Dave Sanborn, George Young, Seldon Powell & Lew Delgatto.

Tracks: Tuxedo Junction, Sweet Talking Guy, Operator, Candy, Gloria, Clap Your hands, That Cat Is High, You Can Depend On Me, Blue Champagne, Java Jive, Occapella & Heart's Desire.