Having signed up to see Manhattan Transfer on Monday and Judy Collins on Wednesday, both at the Dakota in downtown Minneapolis, we were counting on a double dose of much needed anger management therapy. However, Judy Collins had to postpone her show at the last minute on account of laryngitis. Drat! (The show is rescheduled to June 23.) As it turned out, however, we were able to stay for both of Manhattan Transfer’s two shows on Monday night, so we received the needed two doses in any event.
When Manhattan Transfer came to town in March 2014 for two nights at the Dakota, we ran down to catch them both nights. 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. It’s difficult to be crabby listening to music like this.
MT has 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 in October 2014 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 Hauser’s 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 MT’s 2014 shows in Minneapolis, 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. Hendricks, for example, set the lyrics to “Birdland.” Hauser wanted us to know how much the group owed to Hendricks, who is still going strong at 94. The group’s wide-ranging catalogue also reflected Hauser’s eclectic taste, which remained in evidence on Monday night.
Trist Curless has joined the group to fill in Hauser’s vocal parts. Long-time musical director Yaron Gershovsky continues to provide the musical setting for the group’s sound. The group maintains a heavy touring schedule (posted at their site linked above). If you get the chance to see them, I hope you’ll check them out.