When Manhattan Transfer came to town this past March for two shows at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant, we ran down to catch them both nights. And they put on a completely winning show, starting with “Spain” and ending with “Birdland” (video below) and “Route 66.” In between there were no lulls; it was an unadulterated expression of musical joy.
MT won ardent fans all over the world in the 40 years they performed together and collected their 10 or so Grammys. They spread a lot happiness in four-part harmony along the way.
The group’s founding genius was Tim Hauser, who died on Thursday at the age of 72. Hauser was born in New York but grew up on the Jersey shore. He had an unusual background for a musician, having started out as a research analyst and market research manager for Nabisco after serving in the Air Force and New Jersey Air National Guard.
MT was a pure product of his vision. It was a vision that he originally pursued while supporting himself driving a taxi in New York City. As he fashioned the group, he invited singers who shared his taste and could embody his vision to join.
In Minneapolis this past March Hauser talked a lot about Jon Hendricks as one of his inspirations. Hendricks is the master of vocalese, the art of singing (and in Hendricks’s case, writing) lyrics to jazz solos. Hauser wanted us to know how much the group owed to Hendricks, who is still going strong at age 93, but the group’s wide-ranging catalogue also reflected Hauser’s eclectic taste. RIP.