The Manhattan Transfer brought their incredible vocal harmonies to The McCallum Theatre last Saturday night to a Standing Room Only Crowd. I know that for a fact - because I was standing! The sold-out to capacity crowd was riveted by a ninety-plus minute "vocal buffet" of as many of the quartets biggest hits and greatest harmonies as they could pack into a one evening event. They are celebrating their fortieth anniversary this season and it was more than apparent why they remain America's masters at vocalese and vocal jazz and every tight harmony in between. The Four Singers have perfected an almost unnatural blend that can generally only be imitated by the instruments they mimic in style and sound.
From "Route 66" at the top of the show to "Birdland" at the bottom, Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel and Cheryl Bentyne thrill and enthrall. Not only was their vocal blend amazing, but the sound mix was stellar giving them perfect vocal clarity and a wonderful mix with their three piece rhythm section - piano/keyboard, bass and drums. Never overpowered, always supported by the band. The group performs with the simplest of movement throughout and it is just enough. Their voices are ever the star of the show. They are soft-spoken in their banter - no hoopla or fanfare - and it is just right.
"Java Jive", "Corner Pocket" (for which they won a Grammy) and a couple of songs form their album "Brazil" were stand-outs, but perhaps the crowd-pleaser of the evening was "Groovin" which was as free and easy as the "sunny afternoon" the lyrics evoke.
The only weak spot in the concert was the "solo section: where each member of the quartet took a solo turn and delivered a song featured on their solo albums. It was here that it became obvious that, although good singers, they were born to sing in a group and not "down in one". The solo turns seemed more like a night at the "Open Mic" or piano bar ... above the average singers, but not star turns by any stretch of the imagination. In almost every case the vocalists lacked lyric interpretation and the vocals were a bit pitchy. They might be better served to delete their solo turns and fill the show with a few more hits form their incredible catalogue. It was only in the solos that the audience became a bit restless - they were otherwise transfixed throughout.
A well deserved standing ovation warranted an encore - "Operator" which was very well received. It was remarkable to me that their live vocals were every bit as good - even better - than those carefully executed and perfected in the recording studio. It is always a delight when the reality exceeds the expectation! For further information or to purchase tickets to upcoming performances at The McCallum Theatre, visit www.mccallumtheatre.org.