Manhattan Transfer to play Valentine Theatre benefitWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Janis Siegel said The Manhattan Transfer is excited to come to town this month.
“We’re going to be in Toledo like four days after Jon’s [Hendricks] birthday. I was just thinking this morning I should write to my partners and say let’s find Jon and drag him on stage if he’s in town,” she said during a phone interview from New York City.
Siegel, Tim Hauser, Alan Paul and Cheryl Bentyne recorded “Birdland” for 1979’s “Extensions;” Hendricks, the father of vocalese — the setting of lyrics to jazz standards —penned words for the instrumental by Joe Zawinul.
“We had been doing some of [Jon’s] lyrics already. We had been doing ‘Birdland;’ we had been doing ‘I Want You to Be My Baby;’ we had been doing ‘Four Brothers,’ but that was the beginning of our personal relationship with Jon,” Siegel said.
The Transfer’s version of “Birdland” earned the group its first Grammy Award for best jazz fusion performance in 1980, and Siegel received a Grammy for best arrangement for voices.
Given that success, it was inevitable the quartet would work with the jazz legend who grew up in Toledo — and still has a home here — and went on to popularize vocalese alongside Dave Lambert and Annie Ross.
“We commissioned Jon to write a bunch of new lyrics, as well as some of the ones he already had,” Siegel said referring to 1985’s “Vocalese.” “He’s just a writer; I think he sits there and writes whatever he fancies, whatever speaks to him. I remember being fascinated by the process of him writing these incredibly complicated lyrics, these solos, and he described it as being a transcriber, that he just sat there and listened to the music until he heard the words in his mind.”
“Vocalese” received 12 Grammy nominations, and the foursome won in two categories — best jazz vocal performance and best arrangement for voices.
“The first time we heard the four-part harmony — that was pretty amazing. We just sat at the piano and laughed,” Siegel said. “When we painstakingly wrote out these parts, and then everybody learned it and then we sang it together, it was just thrilling. And I think that’s what people really respond to, actually, is the sound of that harmony.”
The Manhattan Transfer will bring that harmony known from hits “The Boy From New York City” and “Route 66” to the Valentine Theatre Sept. 20. Tickets for the performance that will benefit the theater are $250 and include a reception at 7 p.m. and the concert at 8 p.m., with dinner to follow.
Since 1972, the group has made a variety of recordings, including a children’s album called “The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby the Tuba” and a tribute to Louis Armstrong titled “The Spirit of St. Louis.”
“We are talking about this year doing a Chick Corea songbook,” Siegel said.
“I don’t want to get too metaphysical here, but I think there is a vibration that people respond to with harmony,” she said. “And that’s why there always was and there always will be this kind of singing no matter how technologically advanced we become. I think people will always want to raise their voices in song and want to hear other people do it.”
For more information, visit the Web site www.manhattantransfer.org.