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The Manhattan Transfer

The Manhattan Transfer Brings Vocal Stylings to Sarasota’s Sailor Circus on Friday, October 21

| Vicky Sullivan |

The Jazz Club of Sarasota is celebrating its 43rd year by bringing The Manhattan Transfer to town to play the Sailor Circus! In turn, The Manhattan Transfer is celebrating its 50th year in American music. The Transfer has won 10 Grammy awards, 20 nominations and are in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. They have a new album out appropriately titled, “Fifty” and are doing their final world tour. Who can forget their iconic tune, “The Boy from New York City”, among many other hits over the years. They took time out to do an interview with The Suncoast Post before coming to SRQ for the show on Friday, Oct 21st.

Congrats on 50 years! What has it been like to be around all this time with the changes in music over the years?

CHERYL BENTYNE:  It has been pretty amazing.   I think we’re lucky that we started out in the record business when it was ‘hands-on.’  As artists, we were supported and given time to develop and grow.  Records were distributed in a physical form that required relationships among so many people, and a connection to the audience that was very different.  Now it’s obviously mostly online – the role of places to listen such as Spotify, and more, changed access to music.  That’s not bad at all, just very different.  Downloading and streaming is a different experience from going to a record store and browsing…so we have seen such changes it’s phenomenal.  Even the process of recording has become unlike our early experience – in some ways much easier with a studio in someone’s home, yet I’m not sure if that’s always helpful to younger singers who may benefit, or have benefitted, from an experience like we had that kept you in tune and constantly listening among others.  I’m very proud of my group and we’re today very fortunate to have Concord/Craft Recordings put out our new recording FIFTY with the symphony WDR Funkhausorchester; the entire team at Craft Recordings is doing a great job and we appreciate them so much.

I watched a clip of the Manhattan Transfer on a 1992 Tony Bennett Christmas show. Who have been some of your fav artists to work with back in the day?

CHERYL BENTYNE:  Well, working with Tony Bennett was a thrilling experience, not only on his Christmas show, but we made a deal with each other that he would sing on our Christmas album, The Christmas Song, and he did!  It was a handshake deal, very wonderful!  He’s an incredible man.  Of course, the next thing that comes to mind is singing with Ella Fitzgerald on the GRAMMY’s!  What a thrill as we were singing, “How High The Moon” and she broke out and scat in the middle of it – the room exploded in applause as everyone stood up, we were in awe!  We were having an incredible time!!

You have worked with Penatonix, they would be considered a vocal group of today.  What was that experience like?

TRIST CURLESS:  For about a year, I worked for Pentatonix as their front of house audio engineer.  My experience performing for many years with a cappella groups makes me uniquely qualified in terms of my understanding of how the arrangements work and how to make a concert of “just voices” sound like a full concert experience. While I was hired to work in that role specifically, I would on occasion give advice and/or suggestions as one experienced in the art form listening to the show night after night.  It was refreshing and enlightening to see their work ethic and see them grow as vocalists, musicians, and people.  It was a pleasure and an honor to do so!  That relationship came in handy when we performed “White Christmas” on their Christmas recording – it was great to know both groups so well, and we’re all very proud of that collaboration.

Being inducted in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame is an honor.  How did that happen?

The Manhattan Transfer

FROM THE ENTIRE GROUP: Being inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame is just an immense honor.  Recognizing the group for its accomplishments – from the multiple GRAMMY Awards in many categories from pop to jazz, to the 50 years of music and entertaining audiences, from the incredible collaboration with legendary artists such as Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald to songs written for us by Jay Graydon, David Foster and Rod Temperton…it’s just gratifying and wonderful and felt so fortunate, so blessed.  They contacted us and told us they wanted to induct us and honor us for all those reasons and more, it’s as simple as that!

You have literally sung around the world, what countries have some of your biggest fans?

CHERYL BENTYNE:  Because we’ve traveled so far for 50 years, it’s really hard to narrow down one particular country with one particular audience.   We have been blessed with crossing over into many languages, many cultures, and many interests in those countries and their support of us and American music.   Maybe Japan comes to mind often because they embrace American jazz music in all its forms from so many of our recordings and shows, and especially on the recording Extensions – it rang true to them and they let us know in their response. We also did a commercial there that created quite a lot of publicity, in printed press, T, and as well as billboards, so Japan and other countries embraced us and still do around the world – we are very, very lucky.

What artists of today are you fans of?

TRIST CURLESS: My current favorite band is Young Gun Silver Fox!  Great new recordings reminiscent of late 70s/early 80s “soft rock” records. (Think: Ambrosia, Player, America, Ace, etc)  Other current faves include Silk Sonic, Lawrence, säje, Yebba, Caravan Palace, Trousdale, Cory Wong, Kurt Elling/Charlie Hunter (Superblue), Gabe Dixon, Punch Brothers, Jacob Collier, ARORA, Gordon Godwin’s Big Phat Band, Asher Blank, Pat Metheny, and Zero 7…. there are more… I love music!!! 🙂

What can audiences look forward to with this show in Sarasota?

TRIST CURLESS:  In Sarasota, audiences can expect the unexpected!  There will be some music that has been dusted off from the past which they might not have heard in a while, but never fear, of course they will hear favorites from The Manhattan Transfer catalog!

Tickets are still available at Eventbrite.   Pianist Liston Gergory is opening the show.

Photos from The Manhattan Transfer

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