On November 3, 2022, the GRAMMY Museum welcomed collectively ten-time GRAMMY Award-winning vocal group The Manhattan Transfer to celebrate its 50th anniversary and the release of a new studio album, aptly titled Fifty. Variety’s Senior Music Writer and Chief Music Critic, Chris Willman, interviewed the group about their impressive 50-year career and the making of their new album.
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 1985, the Transfer released their most acclaimed recording, Vocalese. The recording received 12 GRAMMY nominations, making it, to date, second only to Michael Jackson's Thriller as the most nominated individual album. Vocalese ultimately won three GRAMMYs for ""Best Jazz Vocal Performance"", ""Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices"", and ""Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Male"".
In 2013, Trist Curless began subbing on the road for the late band founder Tim Hauser, officially joining after Hauser's passing in 2014.
Janis Siegel, Alan Paul, Cheryl Bentyne and Trist Curless are currently on their final global tour celebrating their 50th Anniversary.
The Manhattan Transfer is one of only four artists in history to have won seven consecutive GRAMMY awards for seven consecutive studio albums.