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PREVIEW: The Manhattan Transfer at the State Theatre (Hennepin Theatre Trust)

The award-winning vocal ensemble The Manhattan Transfer. Photo by F. Scott Schafer-Gros.

After 50 years of singing – and one last album, appropriately entitled Fifty, The Manhattan Transfer is on its farewell tour. This Grammy Award-winning, four-part vocal harmony group lands at the State Theatre in Minneapolis on October 12.

The Manhattan Transfer – named after a novel whose title memorializes a demolished rail station for passengers inbound to Manhattan – was originally created by bass singer Tim Hauser. This original lineup included Janis Siegel (alto), Alan Paul (tenor), and Laurel Masse (soprano).  The group has stayed remarkably unchanged over the decades, with just two alterations: Cheryl Bentyne replacing Laurel Masse in 1979, and Trist Curless replacing Tim Hauser after Hauser passed away in 2014.

Consistency seems to have its virtues: The Manhattan Transfer has had incredible success, including 10 Grammy Awards (20 nominations in total), 29 records racking up millions of sales, and numerous pop and jazz chart hits. Their genre-crossing included several firsts, such as being the first group to pick up awards in multiple genres at the Grammy Awards – in 1981, their “Boy From New York City” (which hit number 7 on the pop charts) brought in a Grammy for Best Pop Performance, while their “Until I Met You (Corner Pocket)” took home a Grammy for Best Jazz Fusion Performance in the same ceremony. Some of the group’s other well-known songs include “Route 66”, “Birdland”, and “Java Jive.” On their most recent album, recorded with the WDR Funkhausorchester, there are new versions of some Manhattan Transfer favorites, like “Chanson D’Amour”, “What Goes Around Comes Around”, “Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone”, as well as the Beach Boys standard, “God Only Knows”.

Five decades is a long time in any field, and while the group members still enjoy singing together, The Manhattan Transfer members report that the travel has become harder – but they are going to do it, just one more time.  At their State Theatre performance, they will be supported by the Diva Jazz Orchestra, described as “an ensemble of 15 extremely talented and versatile musicians who just happen to be women”, headed by their own “swinging drummer” Sherrie Maricle. As the promotional materials add, tongue-in-cheek, “They can’t help it – they were born that way”.

The Manhattan Transfer’s State Theatre stop is one last chance to hear about the music of Birdland, the Mohair suit of the Boy from New York City, and the joys of hitting the road on Route 66.

Brian Bix