My first memories of the pop-jazz quartet Manhattan Transfer go back to 1975, when I recall they had a summer television variety show of some success (they also had a hit song at that time, the gospel-influenced track “Operator”).
But it wasn’t really until 1980, when my music teacher at the Street Academy of Albany, George Mastrangelo, introduced me to the full breadth and depth of Manhattan Transfer’s music. See, George Mastrangelo, besides being a music teacher within the Albany City School District, was also an accomplished jazz pianist. And one day he brought in a copy of Manhattan Transer’s album “Extensions” – and just opened up the consciousness of our music class. “Birdland.” “Shaker Song.” “Body and Soul” – very pleasing to the ear. “Foreign Affair.” “Trickle Trickle.” “Wacky Dust.” And the one song that was getting airplay on the radio, “Twilight Zone / Twilight Tone.” This album was packed – PACKED, I say – with monster songs.
Of course, with that album came an increased appreciation for the music of Manhattan Transfer, and eventually the opportunity to interview them for my second cover story for Goldmine magazine in 1999. Every so often I will check their website for concert information – are they playing in Albany, are they doing a Christmas show in New York City, will they be at the Vocal Group Hall of Fame inductions in Sharon, Pennsylvania, or at the Freihofer Jazz Festival in Saratoga Springs – it didn’t matter, they always put on a fantastic performance.
Here’s some YouTube clips of Manhattan Transfer songs from this LP, as performed either live by the quartet, or as part of music videos.
“Birdland” – as performed with Weather Report
“Trickle Trickle” as performed on the Johnny Carson show:
and finally, “Body and Soul” – their version based on Coleman Hawkins’ saxophone version of the song, and then influenced by Eddie Jefferson’s vocalese version, and pays tribute to both:
Their reading of “Foreign Affair” is more than enough to cement Tom Waits as one of the modern era’s most evocative songwriters; their arrangement of it proves that these four musicians were/are able to blow themselves out of every genre/box/category into which one might try to place them!
I remember seeing them at JB Scotts on Central Avenue years and years ago.
Ok, I’ll bring the album. How soon can we expect burial arrangements?
Chuck replies to D357:
I’ll set up an appointment for 40 years from next Wednesday. Meet you there.
Shaker Song? I like it!
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