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The Manhattan Transfer is an Americanmarker vocal music group. There have been two manifestations of the group, with Tim Hauser being the only person to be part of both. The group’s name comes from John Dos Passos’ 1925 novel Manhattan Transfer and refers to their New York origins.



The first manifestation of the group was established during 1969 in New York city, with Tim Hauser, Erin Dickins, Marty Nelson, Gene Pistilli, and Pat Rosalia. They contracted with Capitol Recordsmarker, recorded several tracks, and during 1971 issued their only album with this line-up, Jukin'. The album was later reissued in the UK by EMI's Music for Pleasure under the title The Manhattan Transfer and Gene Pistilli Pistilli had been best known for his performing and songwriting collaborations with Terry Cashman and Tommy West. This team endured only until 1971. According to Tim Hauser, "Gene and I were in two different places. He was more into country & western, R&B, and the Memphis sound, and by then I'd become more interested in jazz and swing..."

Second line-up

The current group (still together as of 2009) was founded during 1972 by Tim Hauser and singers Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, and Laurel Massé. Performances at Max's Kansas Citymarker, Trude Heller’s and Reno Sweeney in New York Citymarker soon developed for them a cult fan base, and it was at the latter venue that Ahmet Ertegün, founder and chairman of Atlantic Records, saw them and offered a recording contract which resulted in the release, during 1975, of this team's first album, The Manhattan Transfer. The album included the group’s first successful single, the gospel tune "Operator".

International success

The group soon did very well in Europe, where the next two albums, Coming Out and Pastiche, brought a string of top 10 successes. One was a revival of Wayne Shanklin's "Chanson D'Amour", which rated number one in the UK and Australia in 1977 but failed to chart in the US. These successes were followed by a live-recorded album, The Manhattan Transfer Live, recorded in the UK.

Third line-up

Soon after that album was recorded, during 1978, Laurel Massé was injured badly by an auto accident and was replaced by Cheryl Bentyne. The team has remained the same since then.

Their next recording, Extensions, earned The Manhattan Transfer their second US popular music success: "Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone", written by Alan Paul and Jay Graydon as a tribute to the 1960s’ CBS television series created by Rod Serling.

In the UK the group is also known for its guest appearances on The Two Ronnies.

Journey into jazz

Extensions featured a cover of Weather Report's "Birdland", with lyrics by Jon Hendricks, the piece that has become The Manhattan Transfer's signature tune. One of the most popular jazz recordings of 1980, "Birdland" brought The Transfer its first Grammy award (Best Jazz Fusion Performance, Vocal or Instrumental), and the award for Best Arrangement For Voices.

During 1981, The Manhattan Transfer made music history by becoming the first group to win Grammy awards for both popular and jazz categories in the same year. "Boy from New York City" (a cover of the 1965 success by The Ad Libs), which scored in the top 10 on the popular charts, won them the award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and "Until I Met You (Corner Pocket)" earned them a Grammy for Best Jazz Performance, Duo or Group. Both of these songs appeared on the group's fifth album, Mecca for Moderns.

During 1982, the group won another Grammy, for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group, for its rendition of the classic ode-to-the-road, "Route 66". The song was on the soundtrack to the Burt Reynolds film Sharky's Machine.

Stretching out

During September 1983 the team produced the album Bodies and Souls, with an urban-contemporary style which resulted in two R&B-chart singles — the #2 "Spice of Life" (also #40 on the pop chart) and the ballad "Mystery" (#80 R&B, #102 Pop). Despite its disappointing chart performance, "Mystery" — with powerful lead vocals by Siegel — has become one of the group's best-loved songs. Hauser has called it the group's biggest turntable (radio airplay) success. Anita Baker covered it on her "breakout" album, Rapture.

The Manhattan Transfer's next set, Vocalese (1985) was a great critical success . Vocalese received twelve Grammy nominations — at the time making it second only to Michael Jackson's Thriller as the most nominated single album ever. The Transfer won in two categories: Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group, and Best Arrangement for Voices. This was followed by a live recording of many of these songs titled Live. This concert was also released on VHS and DVD.

For Brasil, the group headed south to work with Brazilianmarker songwriters and musicians Ivan Lins, Milton Nascimento, Djavan and Gilberto Gil. Brasil won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

During 1991 the group released The Offbeat of Avenues with the Sony label featuring original tunes written or co-written by members of the quartet. Their efforts brought them their 10th Grammy award, for "Sassy." This was followed by the release of their holiday CD titled The Christmas Album.

Switching back to the Atlantic company as their distributor, they recorded Tonin' (a collection of R&B and popular successes from the 1960s which was rather unsuccessful), The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby the Tuba (a children's album), Man-Tora! Live in Tokyo (a concert recorded in 1986 in Japan), and their 1997 album Swing covered 1930s-era swing music. Their final album for the Atlantic company was The Spirit of St. Louis (2000), dedicated to the music of Louis Armstrong.

The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998.By that time, it had become known for mixing jazz, big band, and popular music styles.

Recent activity

The group changed to the Telarc Label in 2003 to release Couldn't Be Hotter, a live performance capturing many of the songs from The Spirit of St. Louis.

In 2004, the group released Vibrate. This is another one of their “pastiche” CDs, blending original tunes with older ones, pop, jazz, funk, etc. Vibrate featured such notable musicians as bassist Will Lee, and renown time keeper Steve Hass on drums.

They also released (in Japan originally and shortly later in the US) An Acapella Christmas in 2005.

During 2006 the team releases The Symphony Sessions, a collection of the group's successes re-arranged for symphonies and popular orchestras, and The Definitive Pop Collection, a two-disc collection of the group's tunes which would cause one to believe they were only from the group's popular music repertoire. Instead, it's a hodge-podge of the group's songs distributed by their contracts with the Atlantic company. They also recorded their first original title song for a movie, "Trail of the Screaming Forehead", and, in late 2006, the Transfer's second concert DVD was released: The Christmas Concert, and was broadcasted by PBS in select locations.

Their newest CD, "The Chick Corea Songbook" was released in September 2009. This release features Chick Corea's most recognizable material with an appearance by Chick Corea himself on Free Samba. Other notable musicians on this recording are Airto, Scott Kinsey, Gary Novack, Steve Hass, Alex Acuna, Jimmy Earl, John Benitez, and Christian McBride.

Current Manhattan Transfer tour line-up

The Manhattan Transfer:

Janis Siegel

Tim Hauser

Alan Paul

Cheryl Bentyne

The Manhattan Transfer Band:

Yaron Gershovsky - Musical Director, Keyboards, and Piano

Steve Hass - Drums and Percussion

Adam Hawley - Guitar

Gary Wicks - Bass



Album Date Released Charts
The Manhattan Transfer 1975 US #33, UK #49 (1977 release)
Coming Out 1976 US #48, UK #12
Pastiche 1978 US #66, UK #10
The Manhattan Transfer Live UK #4
Extensions 1979 US #55, UK #63
The Manhattan Transfer Live 1981 UK #4
Mecca for Moderns US #22
The Best of the Manhattan Transfer US #103
Bodies and Souls 1983 US #57, UK #53
Bop Doo-Wopp 1985 US #127
Vocalese US #74
Man-Tora! Live In Tokyo' 1987 US #187
Brasil US #98
The Offbeat of Avenues 1991 US #179
The Christmas Album 1992 US #120
Anthology: Down In Birdland
The Very Best of the Manhattan Transfer 1994 US #157
The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby the Tuba
Tonin' 1995 US #123
Swing 1997
Boy From New York City And Other Hits
The Spirit of St. Louis 2000
Couldn't Be Hotter 2003
Vibrate 2004
An Acapella Christmas 2005
The Symphony Sessions 2006
The Definitive Pop Collection
The Chick Corea Songbook 2009

Other albums

  • Jukin' (1971)
  • Something Cool (1992) (Cheryl Bentyne solo album)

Hit singles

Year Song US Hot 100 U.S. AC UK Singles Chart Canada
1975 "Operator" 22 34 - 26
1976 "Tuxedo Junction" - - 24 -
1977 "Chanson D'Amour" - 16 1 -
"Don't Let Go" - - 32 -
1978 "Walk In Love" - - 12
"On a Little Street in Singapore" - - 20 -
"Where Did Our Love Go/Je Voulais Te Dire (Que Je T'Attends)" - - 40
1979 "Who What Where When Why" - - 49 -
1980 "Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone" 30 - 25 -
"Trickle Trickle" 73 - - -
1981 "The Boy from New York City" 7 4 - 8
"Smile Again (Dedicated to Angela from Alan)" - 41 - -
1982 "Route 66" 78 22 - -
1983 "Spice of Life" 40 5 19 -
1984 "Mystery" 102 6 - -
"Baby Come Back to Me (The Morse Code of Love)" 83 14 - -
1987 "Soul Food to Go (Sina)" - 25 - -
1995 "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" (with Phil Collins) - 27 -

Guest/soundtrack appearances

In 2003, "Operator" was featured in the opening scenes of the film Phone Booth starring Colin Farrell.


  1. All Music Guide entry
  2. Rate your music
  3. Manhattan Transfer fan club site
  4. The introduction of the song is incorrectly attributed in the liner notes to Bernard Herrmann, who wrote the theme for Season One of The Twilight Zone only. The more famous Twilight Zone theme that is used in the Manhattan Transfer song was composed by Marius Constant.

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