By Ed Adamczyk
Niagara Gazette —
The Manhattan Transfer is four elegant and exquisite voices with New York City origins, tight harmony evincing the joy in jazz singing, and their appearance tonight in North Tonawanda’s Riviera Theatre is a cause for their fans to jump for joy.
The ensemble acquired something of a cult fan base and, forty years on, constant Grammy awards and nominations; world tours; regular placement of songs on pop, jazz, Latin, soul and rhythm and blues record charts; its own CBS television program, many years ago; movie soundtracks, millions of albums sold around the world and an influence in music unlike any singing group.
This is versatile, exceptional four-part harmony without limits, and the rare visit of Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel and Cheryl Bentyne to Western New York is a part of the group’s fortieth anniversary in its current lineup.
Called “The Living Room Sessions,” the presentation at the Riviera will involve only the four singers and their longtime pianist and musical director, Yaron Gershovsky. No band this time; just the voices, a few rarely-performed selections and some stories behind the songs.
Of the format for the tour, Siegel, interviewed by telephone, said, “We’re thrilled with the reaction. It’s going great. Our longtime fans will experience something different. We weren’t sure of the reaction but it’s going very well.”
Reminded of the last time The Manhattan Transfer played in Buffalo, a free concert on the steps of City Hall in the 1980s before an open-for-dancing Niagara Square, Siegel said she remembered an offhand wisecrack from the stage (“We finally get to Buffalo, and we’re playing a bus stop”), and added she was a nursing student at UB before the music business beckoned.
The members of the group have elder-statesman personae in the jazz world, and that’s a good thing. Jazz tends to venerate its influential precursors, and Siegel says she’s impressed by the acclaim.
“Sometimes we meet people, like New York Voices (another vocal jazz quartet, founded years after the Manhattan Transfer). They told us they listened to us. It’s a shock sometimes,” she said.
The Riviera Theatre, North Tonawanda’s elegantly restored movie palace, seems an ideal place for the sort of intimate, friendly concert The Manhattan Transfer has in store. Examples of the Great American Songbook, part of the ensemble’s repertoire, date back to 1926 and the days the place was a movie and vaudeville house. Expect some of that, as well as more modern pieces; with recorded work that includes gospel, pop and tributes to jazz greats Sarah Vaughan and Chick Corea, these singers have a very, very deep catalog of songs.
Some fans here have been waiting a long time for this one.
IF YOU GO
WHO: The Manhattan Transfer’s “Living Room Sessions”
WHERE: The Riviera Theatre, 67 Webster Street, North Tonawanda
WHEN: Friday, June 14, 8 P.M.
COST: $36.50, $41.50
MORE INFORMATION: 716-692-2413