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June 21, 2005

Manhattan Transfer lends playful note

Indianapolis Star (IN):

The Manhattan Transfer presented jazz as Americana when headlining Friday night's opening session of this year's Indy Jazz Fest. Consistently playful and showy, the long-running vocal quartet traveled most of the country during its rendition of "Route 66" Friday night. The arrangement featured a quasi-Doppler effect -- beginning with a walking bass line and four whispers in the distance, gaining volume and organ riffs in the middle and then rolling down the road with more whispers and walking bass.

Soprano Janis Siegel, alto Cheryl Bentyne, tenor Alan Paul and bass Tim Hauser brought Kansas City's Count Basie to Indianapolis in the form of "You Can Depend On Me." Hauser shared helpful knowledge with the festival crowd, explaining that he and Siegel were singing lyrics tailored to trumpet and saxophone solos originally played by Shad Collins and Lester Young on "Depend."

Siegel's version of Ella Fitzgerald's "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" added to the all-American feel, but the concert's highlight may have arrived with a tribute to South African religious leader and activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Bentyne showcased her startling ability to replicate a trumpet when scatting "The New JuJu Man (Tutu)," originally a mid-'80s collaboration between Miles Davis and Marcus Miller.

The Manhattan Transfer's backing trio of keyboard player, bass player and drummer showed flexibility by delivering "JuJu" as an electric post-funk march. Mostly, the musicians were called upon to capture the acoustic vibe of an earlier era. "Stomp of King Porter," for instance, aimed near the source by remembering one of New Orleans' jazz pioneers, Jelly Roll Morton.

Posted by acapnews at June 21, 2005 9:56 PM