The Manhattan Transfer are an American vocal group from N.Y.C., formed in 1969 by swing enthusiast Tim Hauser. The original lineup, a five-piece with songwriter Gene Pistilli, issued one album of retro jazz and pop on Capitol in 1971. Hauser then recruited singers Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, and Laurel Massé, establishing the two man/two woman format. This lineup released three albums of slick jazz-pop on Atlantic between 1975 and 1978. With Massé’s replacement, Cheryl Bentyne, the Manhattan Transfer entered its most popular phase with the 1979–83 albums Extensions, Mecca for Moderns, and Bodies and Souls.
Members: Tim Hauser (1969-2014), Gene Pistilli (1969-72), Marty Nelson (1969-72), Pat Rosalia (1969-72), Erin Dickens (1969-72), Alan Paul (1972-present), Janis Siegel (1972-present), Laurel Massé (1972-79), Cheryl Bentyne (1979-present), Wayne Johnson (lead guitar, 1979-present), Yarón Gershovsky (keyboards, 1979-present)
The original Manhattan Transfer was formed in 1969 by vocalist Tim Hauser (1941–2014). He took the name from the 1925 urban-development novel Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos. The original lineup included singers Gene Pistilli, Marty Nelson, Pat Rosalia, and Erin Dickens.
Hauser first recorded with the doo-wop group The Criterions, which issued two singles (“I Remain Truly Yours” and “Don’t Say Goodbye”) on small-press Cecilia in 1959. He then cut the 1963 folk-pop single “You Can Tell The World” (b/w “Mary Mild”) as part of the Coventry Lads, which also included future singer/songwriter Jim Croce and songwriter/producer Tommy West, who later formed a country-pop combo with Pistilli and Terry Cashman. The latter trio, under the name Buchanan Brothers, charted with “Medicine Man” in 1969.
The five-piece Manhattan Transfer issued their singular album, Jukin’, on Capitol in 1971. Due to Pistilli’s name-recognition going into the project, the group is credited here as The Manhattan Transfer & Gene Pistilli. The album features 10 songs, including four co-written by Pistilli: “One More Time Around Rosie,” “Roll Daddy, Roll,” “Chicken Bone Bone,” and the Cashman/West/Pistilli composition “Rosianna.” Covers include chestnuts by Fats Waller (“Vipers Drag“), Ira Gershwin (“Sunny Disposish“), and Oakland/Drake (“Java Java,” a 1940 hit for The Ink Spots).
Stylistically, Jukin’ encompasses ’50s country (“Fair and Tender Ladies“), Dixieland (“Sunny Disposish“), swing (“Vipers Drag“), and doo wop (“Guided Missiles“). The exuberant opener, “Chicken Bone Bone,” trades trumpet blasts (courtesy of the Memphis Horns) with strummed, harmonized precision. Dickens takes the mic on Pistilli’s piano-laden torch song “I Need a Man,” singing in a sultry yet more subdued manner than her female counterparts in later lineups of the group. Nelson plays clarinet on three numbers, most prominently on the bluesy “One More Time Around Rosie.”
Though its mid-century arrangements were odd for the US music scene of 1971, Jukin’ foreshadows assorted acts on the mid-’70s UK pub scene, including purveyors of retro country (The Kursaal Flyers, Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers) and Tin Pan Alley (Deaf School). “Rosianna” adds a touch of Western swing (violin) to a neo-’50s barroom-rock arrangement, presaging the Fabulous Poodles.
Reflecting the group’s retro leanings, Jukin’ sports a cover reminiscent of 1940s movie posters, complete with the tagline “Tingling with tunes! Sizzling with swing! Romping with rhythms!” With the exception of “Fair and Tender Ladies” (recorded April 1969, Hit Factory, NYC), the album was recorded Jan-Feb 1971 at A&R Recording Studio (NYC) and Woodlawn Sound Studios (Nashville) and produced by Scottish-Canadian songwriter, arranger, and studio tech Adam Mitchell, whose other production credits from this period include albums by McKendree Spring and Fludd.
(more to come…)
- Jukin’ (1971)
- The Manhattan Transfer (1975)
- Coming Out (1976)
- Pastiche (1978)
- Live (1978)
- Extensions (1979)
- Mecca for Moderns (1981)
- Bodies and Souls (1983)
- Bop Doo-Wopp (1984)
- Vocalese (1985)
- Brasil (1987)
- Live (1987)
- The Offbeat of Avenues (1991)
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