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The Manhattan Transfer: Couldn

Jim Santella By

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With a clear emphasis on swing, the Manhattan Transfer recorded this live session at Orchard Hall in Tokyo a few years back. The huge auditorium audience seems to light up this vocal quartet as they perform favorite songs from jazz’s early years—songs that rocked our grandparents, our parents, us, and our children.

Now over thirty years old, the Manhattan Transfer soaks up what its audience provides in appreciation and converts that energy into a brilliant performance, both intimate and blazing hot. Ballads settle gently over the hall, giving the vocalists plenty of room for individual expression. Fast rompers drive with passion, relying on the energy that this collective unit has always put forth. Wayne Johnson, Lew Soloff, Larry Klimas and Yaron Gershovsky provide solid support. Their individual solo spots rivet the listener and pump up the singers.

Tenor Alan Paul takes the feature for a doo-wop arrangement of “Blue Again.” He and bass singer Tim Hauser share the spotlight on “Gone Fishin’.” Both have now gone far beyond their original vocal ranges. Paul moves easily and naturally through the baritone range, while Hauser soliloquies as high as the tenor range. Alto Cheryl Bentyne accepts the feature for “Stars Fell On Alabama,” while soprano Janis Siegel shines brightly for “A- Tisket, A-Tasket.” There’s more. The variety of their program is such that you’re challenged to pick a favorite selection. A hundred years of jazz and blues are represented.

By paying tribute during this Tokyo performance to Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, the Modernaires, the Four Freshmen, the Hi-Lo’s, Count Basie, and Hoagy Carmichael, the Manhattan Transfer has summarized the swing element in jazz. Their live album provides a refreshing look at what has taken us to where we are today.

Track Listing: Old Man Mose; Sing Moten

Personnel: Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, Cheryl Bentyne, Tim Hauser- vocals; Yaron Gershovsky- keyboards; Tom Brechtlein- drums; Michael Bowie- bass; Wayne Johnson- guitar; Larry Klimas- tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Lewis Soloff- trumpet.

Title: Couldn | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Telarc Records

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