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.