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The Manhattan Transfer: Couldn

C. Michael Bailey By

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The ManhattanTransfer, collectively consisting of Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, Cheryl Bentyne, and Tim Hauser, has been performing as a unit for more than 30 years. As a vocal group, they offer a lighthearted foil to Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. The Transfer has always been more pop-oriented than smiled upon by the jazz community. They were never afraid to include novelty tunes and rock influence in their fine performances. But still, the group has retained a smart hipster’s identity and has made high caliber music for the better part of their run.

After having recorded for Atlantic since the mid-1990s, the group jumps to Telarc and kicks things off with this live set recorded in Tokyo in late 2000. On the whole the group remains this side of bebop, opting for a program of traditional jazz and swing tunes, as well as a generous smattering of Armstrongtonia.

Pops looms large over the Transfer’s concert landscape on Couldn’t Be Hotter. "Old Man Mose," and "Up a Lazy River" were both Armstrong vehicles. "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans" and "Stars Fell On Alabama " round out the Satchmo lovefest. "Blue Again" is seasoned with Wayne Johnson’s slide guitar, providing a rich stew of influences, including Chicago Jazz and Doo Op. "Nuages" is full of whimsy and fun, bragging Jon Hendricks-penned lyrics over Django’s peerless melody. Saxophonist Larry Klimas’ contributions to especially "Sugar" and "Stompin’ At Mahogany Hall," are effervescent and humid all at once.

"Nothing Could Be Hotter Than That," "It’s Good Enough To Keep," and "Don’t Let Go" span the considerable breadth of the Transfer’s capability, amply demonstrating the group’s ability to sing double-time. Winding it down, "Twilight Zone / Twilight Tone" is pure entertainment. Perfect bliss comes through on the closer, eight minutes of "My Foolish Heart." Ensemble singing may not get any better.


Track Listing: Old Man Mose; Sing Moten

Personnel: Alan Paul; Janis Siegel; Cheryl Bentyne, Tim Hauser

Title: Couldn | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Telarc Records


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