Jazz It Up

For over 30 years, four piece act The Manhattan Transfer has been bringing its phenomenal tunes to discerning jazz devotees all over the world. The vocal group, which comprises Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel and Cheryl Bentyne, is in town to bring you a riveting concert on Jul 3. We grab the chance to have a chat with Hauser before the group’s concert here.
Hauser, you have been singing since young, and recorded a couple of singles when you were only 15. Have you always wanted to be in a vocal group?
I wanted to be in a vocal group since I was 14. But I did try some other things. I was a marketing research executive for a large manufacturing corporation, and also worked for a large advertising agency. I was also a taxicab driver.
The Manhattan Transfer has been in the scene for more than 30 years. Was the career path of The Manhattan Transfer smooth sailing from the very start? 
It was not smooth sailing from the start. Our style of music was not supposed to be popular. After all, it was not rock ’n’ roll, nor was it post modern. It is a jazz based entity, and jazz is not supposed to be popular in the US. Europe, though, was very accepting of our sound from the beginning. It took us about six years to really gain Americans’ acceptance.
How has the musical direction of the group changed over the years? 
We have gone back and forth doing more jazz inspired albums, to more pop inspired albums. And then sometimes, we do combinations of both.
Is there any album that is particularly memorable?
Yes, our Vocalese album. It is our most critically-acclaimed CD. It is the third most Grammy nominated album of all time, having earned 12 nominations and won two Grammys.
Your latest offering Vibrate is marked by a mix of traditional and progressive jazz, and has elements of Latin, world and pop music. Any plans to attempt other musical genres in future works?
Not at this time. We don’t bring in these influences or varied genres for their own sakes. It really depends on what inspires each individual at a particular point in time.
We are amazed at the group’s versatile sound. How do you people maintain your voices? 
We warm up for 30 minutes before each concert. It’s like working out at the gym.

Who are the group’s influences?
We like the Swing vocal groups of the ’30s like the Spirits of Rhythm, 4 Vagabonds and Ink Spots. The four part harmony groups of the Big Band Era, such as the Modernaires, Pied Pipers and Delta Rhythm Boys, and the R&B vocal groups of the ’50s like the Moonglows and the Flamingos are some of our influences too. And of course, there’s King Pleasure and Eddie Jefferson. These are just a few.
What can we look forward to in your upcoming concert?
We try and do a reasonable representation of our many albums and CDs. We like to combine our earlier songs with our more recent material. We also like to do a cross-section of our jazz, and pop material.
Do you have anything to say to your loyal fans that have supported you all these years?
We are very grateful for the support you have given us. We will still continue to work hard to entertain you, and to try and give you the best of what we can do.