Harmonies as catchy as ever after 40 years

EWEN COLEMAN
Last updated 09:49 25/02/2013

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Manhattan Transfer, Michael Fowler Centre, Saturday, February 23.

Sustainability is a somewhat hackneyed and over-rated expression these days, but when applied to a group like Manhattan Transfer it is more than apt.

This year is the 40th anniversary of their formation and with countless albums and Grammys behind them they are as energetic and vibrant as they always have been, still creating that distinctive sound of close harmonies they have become so famous for.

Founding member Tim Hauser is still centre stage crooning as never before and with Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, Cheryl Bentyne, who all joined in the mid 70s, Manhattan Transfer gave another memorable concert in the Michael Fowler Centre on Saturday night.

Starting the evening off with one of their signature tunes, Route 66, they then moved through other well known favourites like Doodle Away and Java Jive. Their mellow tone coupled with the crisp but clear snappy quick-fire delivery of the lyrics that is so distinctive of their sound, along with the wonderful harmonising, is always present regardless of the style or genre of song.

But over the years they have each gone out on solo careers as well as being part of the group and were able to show off their individual talents; Alan Paul and Cheryl Bentyne both particularly impressive as soloists.

They have also developed a style of musical number known as "vocalese" where their lyricist, Jon Hendricks, sets words to established jazz numbers. One of Manhattan Transfer's most acclaimed albums was one of the same name and many of the songs during Saturday night's concert were of this style. Spain from a Chick Corea instrumental and Airegin from the Miles Davis Quintet were two such numbers along with an incredible vocal from Cheryl Bentyne of Tutu, another Miles Davis piece.

A rendition of Weather Report's Birdland finished the evening on a high note which was followed by an encore of two favourites, Chanson D'Amour and Operator that left the almost full house standing and clapping for more, a feat few groups can achieve after 40 years.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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