One of the most innovative vocal groups in the history of popular music, The Manhattan Transfer brings its harmonic jazz stylings to the Valley on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 7:30 p.m., at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix. The one-night-only performance is part of Scottsdale Arts’ new Scottsdale Arts Presents series, which showcases artists and programs at venues beyond the downtown Scottsdale campus.
The Manhattan Transfer’s longevity is no accident. The release of its self-titled debut album in 1975 marked the beginning of a constant stream of hit songs that would find an enthusiastic audience worldwide for more than 40 years, from its first, the remake of the Friendly Brothers gospel classic, “Operator,” to the Weather Report song “Birdland,” which would become the group’s anthem and earn its first two Grammy® Awards.
Among the group’s many other hits are “Route 66,” “Boy From New York City” and “Chanson D’Amour.” The group has achieved worldwide sales in the millions, Grammy Awards by the dozen and countless sold-out international tours.
As “Operator” rose up the charts, The Manhattan Transfer was invited to appear on various variety shows and television specials. Soon, it was tapped for a weekly hour-long summer replacement comedy-variety show, which premiered in August 1975, and allowed the group to do such innovative things as feature Bob Marley and the Wailers in their first U.S. TV appearance.
In 1981, they became the first group ever to win Grammys in both Pop and Jazz categories in the same year – Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for “Boy From New York City,” and Best Jazz Performance, Duo or Group for “Until I Met You (Corner Pocket).” In 1982 and 1983 the group won consecutive Grammys in the Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group category for, respectively, “Route 66” and “Why Not!”
Critical praise and commercial success continued for the group, including 12 Grammy nominations for the album Vocalese, worldwide sales in the millions and numerous sold-out world tours. Two albums, Coming Out and Pastiche, brought a string of Top 10 hits in Europe and produced a No. 1 smash in Britain and France with “Chanson d’Amour.”
In the 1990s, the group wrote and performed more original material, and tackled seasonal standards (The Christmas Album arranged by Johnny Mandel) children’s music (The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby the Tuba), 1950s & 1960s popular music (Tonin’), and different genres of swing music (Swing).
Over the years, they have worked with an impressive roster of talent, including Tony Bennett, Bette Midler, Smokey Robinson, Laura Nyro, Phil Collins, B.B. King, Chaka Khan, James Taylor and Frankie Valli.
In the new millennium, The Manhattan Transfer recorded a tribute to the music of Louis Armstrong, made a second foray into Christmas music and released The Chick Corea Songbook, among other musical endeavors.