I first heard The Manhattan Transfer over 30 years ago when I was learning to sing vocal jazz as a teenager. I didn't know what Birdland was, but it sure sounded like a cool place. The net didn't exist back then. It didn't occur to me that the Manhattan Transfer was from, well, New York. I just boggled at their astonishing vocal feats.
This year, during my three blissful months in Manhattan, I finally experienced Birdland firsthand. So it is oddly fitting that The Manhattan Transfer showed up in my little town tonight, in their only Oregon stop in this year's tour.
Although Tim Hauser was out due to a last-minute back surgery, Cheryl Bentyne, Alan Paul, and Janis Siegel worked their magic seamlessly with Trist Curless. By the time they wrapped their first set with Route 66, they had the mostly white-haired crowd in the palms of their hands. Their second set opened with an intricate honky-tonk / boogie-woogie piano intro from Yaron Gershovsky, and then blasted into a rollicking rendition of Birdland itself. At the end of the night the crowd surged (or creaked) to their feet in a standing ovation for Operator.
The group's members have changed since then, and they might have a few more miles on them since they started 44 years ago, but they can still put on a great show. Recommended.