It all starts with Manhattan Transfer

gala: Celebrated jazz group kicks off Center’s season

Contributing writerSeptember 21, 2012 

The Washington Center for the Performing Arts is getting right into the swing of the season with a performance by The Manhattan Transfer.

The Saturday concert is part of the venerable jazz quartet’s 40th anniversary tour — and it’s the centerpiece of CenterFest, the theater’s annual gala fundraiser.

In its 40 years, the Manhattan Transfer has recorded more than 20 albums and has had only one change in membership. Soprano Cheryl Bentene joined the group in 1976 after original member Laurel Massé was in a serious auto accident.

“It’s the most complicated relationship I have ever and will ever be in,” Bentene said of her years with the group in a 2010 interview for the Quebec jazz website TVjazz.tv. “We’re business partners. We’re singing partners. … We are like brothers and sisters. We are a strange, abstract kind of marriage because we have been together so long. It’s so multifaceted.”

“We always kept the perspective that this to us was a wonderful gift,” tenor Alan Paul added. “The petty things that go on sometimes — emotional things in families or in relationships — never really overshadowed for us the gift, this wonderful opportunity to share and do music together.”

The group was the brainchild of bass Tim Hauser, who was working as a New York City cabdriver when he came up with the idea of a group that would apply four-part harmonies to jazz, R&B, pop, rock, salsa and swing. (Alto Janis Siegel is the fourth member.)

The group released its first album, “The Manhattan Transfer,” in 1975. The single “Operator” peaked in the Billboard Top 20, and that summer, the group had its own hour-long variety show on CBS.

“The Boy From New York City,” the quartet’s most popular U.S. single, hit No. 7 on the Billboard charts in 1981.

Its most recent album, 2009’s “The Chick Corea Songbook,” has drawn critical praise.

“Significant as it is that the Manhattan Transfer has been around for 40 years, it is far more remarkable that those four decades have been marked by near-continuous artistic expansion and advancement,” Christopher Loudon wrote in a review for Jazz Times.

In the liner notes, Siegel describes “Songbook” as a “magical and transformational odyssey.”

And Loudon agreed, saying, “It is less an album than a series of soul-stirring journeys, unfailingly respectful to their source while sagely retooled to take wing in fresh directions.”

Center in transition

The Washington Center for the Performing Arts has been without an executive director since mid-August, when then-interim director and marketing director Kevin Boyer resigned.

The center’s board is currently more involved in day-to-day operations and intends to have a new executive director on board by year’s end, interim marketing director Anne Larsen said.

“Things are happening,” she said Monday. “They are ready to fling the doors open and get the lights on and welcome the community.” CenterFest Gala

What: The fundraising gala features the jazz vocal quartet The Manhattan Transfer, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia

Tickets: $38.50-$76 for concert and opening reception; $168-$176 for full gala after the concert

For information: 360-753-8586 or www.washingtoncenter.org

Chihuly art to be auctioned: Before the show, a glass basket created by renowned artist Dale Chihuly will be sold at live auction. Susan Ritter, secretary of the center’s board, and her husband, Scott Ritter, donated the basket created for a Tacoma Art Museum benefit.

MORE CENTERFEST

Art and More, 5:30-9 p.m. today. The reception is the debut of this exhibit, which features 27 1-foot-square artworks, all up for auction through Oct. 6 at biddingforgood.com/CenterFest. The event includes a wine tasting; wine tickets will be sold at the event. Admission is free.

Swing dance canceled. The free swing dance that had been scheduled for Sunday has been canceled.

Molly Gilmore

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