Northeast Times

The legendary Manhattan Transfer will blossom at Longwood Gardens

It’s been nearly 40 years since Tim Haus­er helped form a vo­cal quar­tet so au­then­t­ic in its mu­sic­al abil­it­ies and har­mon­ies that it still stands out today in the field of Amer­ic­an pop­u­lar song.

Haus­er named the group the Man­hat­tan Trans­fer after a 1925 John Dos Pas­sos nov­el, and they are set to per­form on Thursday, Aug. 23, at Long­wood Gar­dens in Chester County.

Today, the group con­sists of Haus­er, Alan Paul, Janis Siegel and Cheryl Bentyne who, un­for­tu­nately, had to leave the group for sev­er­al months be­cause of a dia­gnos­is of can­cer. She was re­placed tem­por­ar­ily by Mar­garet Dorn.

“But I’m fi­nally back and so grate­ful to be here,” Bentyne said. “Com­ing back gives you an­oth­er level of grat­it­ude for all the good for­tune you have be­long­ing to such a group.”

Born in­to a mu­sic­al fam­ily, Bentyne star­ted singing at the age of 13. At the en­cour­age­ment of her moth­er, she joined her fath­er’s Dixie­land and swing band. Later, after study­ing theat­er and mu­sic in col­lege in the Seattle, Wash­ing­ton area, she joined a band as the only fe­male and sing­er, play­ing at loc­al clubs while set­ting her eyes on a ca­reer in Los Angeles.

“I star­ted out singing, but in my heart I al­ways wanted to be an act­ress,” said Bentyne, 58. “But I hadn’t been in L.A. very long when I got a call from my agent ask­ing me to go on an au­di­tion for Trans­fer. I was def­in­itely a fan of the group so I was thrilled to au­di­tion. I knew the mu­sic and won a spot, but I had no idea then that I’d be trav­el­ing the world for the next thirty-three years.”

If one is judged by the com­pany they keep, Bentyne is proud to be in this il­lus­tri­ous com­pany that has re­cor­ded with some pretty im­press­ive com­pany of its own over the years, in­clud­ing Tony Ben­nett, Smokey Robin­son, B.B. King and many, many oth­ers.

Man­hat­tan Trans­fer has also made mu­sic his­tory by be­com­ing the first group to win Grammy awards for both pop­u­lar and jazz cat­egor­ies in the same year. A second Grammy came their way for Best Jazz Vo­cal Per­form­ance, Duo and Group, for its rendi­tion of the clas­sic ode-to-the-road Route 66. The song was fea­tured on the soundtrack to the Burt Reyn­olds film Shar­key’s Ma­chine.

“We are an ad­ven­tur­ous group in so much of what we choose to do, but I think it’s our mu­sic that keeps the fans com­ing back. No mat­ter what we are asked to do, we are able to rep­res­ent the har­mony in the mu­sic in all its forms,” Bentyne offered. “Watch­ing us up on stage, I think audi­ences are im­pressed that after all these years we are still to­geth­er. It’s like watch­ing a four-part mar­riage that has las­ted a long, long time.”

Still, she con­tin­ued, at times there are those pesky ego prob­lems that plague most groups.

“But we keep those in check. We know each oth­er well enough after all these years to push cer­tain but­tons, but at the same time to real­ize that the mu­sic is the biggest force in our lives and much big­ger than the sum of its parts,” she said. “Hon­estly, we do get along great, and have such a deep love for each oth­er. Though we rarely speak about it, we know it’s there.”

And when they’re not per­form­ing to­geth­er, Bentyne said each mem­ber of the group en­joys his or her own solo ca­reer.

“As for me,” she said, “I feel ex­tremely lucky to find la­bels will­ing to sup­port me and back me up. My re­cent CD is the mu­sic of Cole Port­er and is called Let’s Mis­be­have.”

Healthy, happy and so glad to be back to per­form­ing, Bentyne ad­vised oth­er would-be sing­ers to take their time to learn their craft.

“If not,” she said, “if they don’t learn to read mu­sic and everything else in­volved in the busi­ness, I’m afraid they’ll have no found­a­tion on which to build.”

For show times and tick­et in­form­a­tion, call 215-893-1999.

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