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February 6, 2004


Los Angles Times
by Don Heckman

Cheryl Bentyne has been a member of the Manhattan Transfer for a quarter of a century, an integral cog in the smoothly functioning vocal quartet. Taking a break from the group with her own engagement at Feinstein's at the Cinegrill, she included plenty of musical reminders of that successful and familiar association on Monday.

There was, for example, a romp through Annie Ross' tongue-twisting lyrics to "Farmer's Market" -- the sort of rapid-fire vocalese that is a Transfer stock in trade. Bentyne's rendering of "Sweet Butterfly" recalled a more lyrical Transfer style. And as a climax to the set, she called up Transfer partner Alan Paul from the audience for a spontaneous, swinging version of "Route 66."

But the evening also included other, more personal facets of Bentyne's considerable performing talents, particularly evident in ballad numbers such as "Everything Happens to Me," "Little Girl Blue," "Sophisticated Lady" and "Black Coffee." It was in songs such as these that her very real skills as a solo artist were most apparent. Beautifully shaping her melodic lines, finding the inherent drama in harmonic progressions and, above all, singing the lyrics with a clear understanding of their storytelling nuances, Bentyne became much more than a member of a well-known vocal quartet.

All of which underscored the dilemma she faces as a solo artist. It's understandable that she might wish to remind her listeners of the Transfer connection. But Bentyne's larger-than-life delivery on her brisk, up-tempo numbers was far more appropriate for big-venue Transfer performances than it was for the intimate environs of Feinstein's.

And her performance would have been more consistently engaging had she risked setting aside the collective Transfer energies in favor of the personal, illuminating, but no less swinging, stylistic manner she brought to her entrancing balladry.

Posted by acapnews at February 6, 2004 8:38 AM


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