Collectively ten-time GRAMMY® Award-winning vocal group The Manhattan Transfer celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new studio album, aptly titled Fifty, which is set for release on September 23 digitally and October 21 on CD, via Craft Recordings. The group have announced they will embark on their final worldwide tour with the new album available for pre-order today.
The 10-track set finds the best-selling act partnering with Germany’s renowned WDR Funkhausorchester Köln (WDR Radio Orchestra Cologne), plus symphony arrangers including GRAMMY® Award winners Jorge Callandreli and Vince Mendoza, as well as vocal arrangers including Amanda Taylor of säje, to revisit their biggest hits from throughout the decades, including new arrangements of “Chanson D’Amour,” “Twilight Zone / Twilight Tone” and “The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul.” Fifty also features two timeless classics: George and Ira Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” (recorded for the first time by the group) and The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” which is available to stream today. Rounding out the album are brand-new liner notes from co-founder Alan Paul, who reflects on The Manhattan Transfer’s enduring career and matchless accomplishments.
In addition to the new album, the quartet will also celebrate their golden anniversary with a final extensive, global tour. Kicking off October 7 in Modesto, CA, the cross-continental run includes stops across the US, Europe, UK, Japan and Australasia, with dates continuing through 2023. Select shows include a digital copy of the new album Fifty with your ticket, with details outlined on the box office website. An initial list of shows is below, with more dates to be announced shortly.
“After FIFTY years of creating and singing harmony, we would like to celebrate with our upcoming release—aptly named FIFTY—and acknowledge all the joy you have brought us on our musical journey as we begin our 50th Anniversary & Final World Tour. We look forward to seeing you!”
Recorded across multiple continents during lockdown, the album was inspired after The Manhattan Transfer performed a sold-out concert in Cologne with the WDR Funkhausorchester Köln in January 2020. As co-founder Alan Paul recalls in his liner notes, “The collaboration between the group and the symphony was such an exhilarating and enjoyable experience that we all thought it would be wonderful to do a recording project together.” But when a pandemic shut down global travel, things became a bit more complicated. Guided by vocal producer Dave Thomas (of Take 6), the recording was completed in stages, with a rhythm section recording in New Jersey and Manhattan and the symphony working on their parts in isolated sections at the WDR studios.
When it came to narrowing down material from the group’s substantial catalog, Paul writes, “We wanted the choice of songs to somehow represent the significant transitions of our music over the span of five decades, which was a rather formidable task.” He continues, “What interested us was choosing material that either represented a significant moment in the group’s history, or songs that perhaps were not necessarily hits, but ones we really loved. Also, another major consideration was choosing songs that we felt would inspire and work well with the symphony because this was a collaboration.” The result is Fifty: an inspired and very worthy celebration of one of the greatest vocal groups in modern music.
Known for their trademark, jazz-infused harmonies, their dynamic performances and their stylistic range, The Manhattan Transfer has achieved an incomparable career of hits across the pop, jazz and dance charts. The group was the brainchild of singer Tim Hauser (1941–2014), who, as a New York City taxi driver in the late ’60s, aspired to form a vocal harmony quartet that could authentically embrace a variety of musical styles. In a uniquely New York moment, Hauser met singers Laurel Massé and Janis Siegel in his taxi. Rounding out the group was Alan Paul, who, at the time, was a cast member of Grease on Broadway. On October 1, 1972, the four vocalists became The Manhattan Transfer.
The quartet soon became the premier live attraction in Manhattan, releasing their self-titled, major-label debut in 1975 and scoring their first US Top 40 hit with a cover of the gospel classic “Operator.” Two years later, they topped the UK pop charts with “Chanson D’Amour,” off 1976’s Coming Out, and continued to grow their fanbase with a string of charting albums (including 1978’s Pastiche) and a trove of hit songs in the US, UK, Australia and beyond, including “On a Little Street in Singapore,”
In 1979, Cheryl Bentyne replaced Massé, and the group evolved a vocal fusion embracing electronics with newly energized vocal arrangements. The group’s next album, Extensions (1980), produced the dance hit “Twilight Zone / Twilight Tone” and “Birdland,” which earned the group their first two GRAMMYS® and became one of their signature tunes. In 1981, meanwhile, the group scored their first Top Ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with “The Boy From New York City” (first made famous by The Ad Libs in 1965). Months later, the quartet made history at the GRAMMYS® by being the first act to win awards in both Pop and Jazz categories in the same year (for “Boy From New York City” and “Until I Met You (Corner Pocket),” respectively).
The Manhattan Transfer continued to find success on the charts throughout the ’80s, with songs like “Spice of Life” (co-written by Heatwave’s Rod Temperton) and a GRAMMY®-winning rendition of “Route 66,” which appeared on the soundtrack to Sharky’s Machine, starring Burt Reynolds. In 1985, meanwhile, the group’s ninth studio album, Vocalese, earned a record-breaking 12 GRAMMY® nominations—cementing the quartet as one of the most innovative vocal groups in popular music history. Two years later, The Manhattan Transfer collaborated with a legendary group of Brazilian songwriters (including Djavan, Gilberto Gil and Ivan Lins) for the aptly titled Brasil. The album, which included such tracks as “Agua” and “Soul Food to Go,” found the quartet beating out The Beach Boys for Best Pop Vocal Group at the 1989 GRAMMYS®.
In the ’90s, the group continued to expand upon their songwriting—particularly on albums like The Offbeat of Avenues (which featured original compositions like “Blues for Pablo,” “A World Apart,” “What Goes Around Comes Around” and “Sassy”). The quartet also recorded a best-selling holiday album and ventured into the world of children’s music. That sense of creative freedom extended into the new millennium, with the group releasing five new albums over the course of a decade, including The Spirit of St. Louis (2000) and Vibrate (2004). In 2018, The Manhattan Transfer released their 23rd album, The Junction, which included such new favorites as “Cantaloop” (Flip Out!)” and “Swing Balboa (Down on Riverside).”
Today, the quartet features Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, Cheryl Bentyne and Trist Curless, who became a member of the group in 2014, following the death of Tim Hauser. Now, with Fifty, the group proudly honors the musical legacy that Hauser left behind, while celebrating their incredible artistic journey—one that includes 19 singles, 29 albums, 10 GRAMMY® Awards collectively for the group and its members, 20 GRAMMY® nominations and an induction into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Along the way, they’ve had music featured widely in major films and television shows, while they have collaborated with some of the biggest names in the jazz and pop worlds, including Tony Bennett, Bette Midler, Smokey Robinson, Laura Nyro, Phil Collins, Take 6, B.B. King, Chaka Khan, James Taylor, Frankie Valli, Joe Zawinul, Asleep at the Wheel, Stéphane Grappelli, Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea, and Dizzy Gillespie.