February 11, 2015
Manhattan Transfer soldiers on in honor of founder Tim Hauser
Cleveland Plain Dealer:
For almost 40 years, Cheryl Bentyne and her friends in the Manhattan Transfer got used to seeing their founder and friend, Tim Hauser just about every day. And just like that, he's gone. Hauser, who was driving a cab when he founded the group back in New York in 1969, died of cardiac arrest last October. He was 72.
"It's still surreal, kind of,'' said Bentyne, who joined the band in 1979, in a call from her Los Angeles home. "It hasn't quite hit yet, and yet we've been doing shows with Trist Curless. I keep expecting to see Tim walk out onstage, or see him in the lobby, waiting for us.''
Bentyne admitted that the band, which plays sold-out Nighttown on Friday, Feb. 13, as part of the club's 50th anniversary year celebration, contemplated calling it quits after Hauser's death.
"There were all kinds of thoughts running through our heads,'' she said. "He STARTED the group. But we want to keep singing and we want to keep the legacy alive, which is what he would absolutely want. "He built this from the ground up, and to walk away from it really wasn't an option,'' she said.
What helped, she said, was having Curless to step in. He'd already filled in as the bass from time to time during Hauser's illnesses, so they were all acquainted with him.
"If anyone could walk in his place, Trist is the guy to do it,'' said Bentyne. And she was effusive in her praise for how he handled a tough situation. He would let the three surviving members -- Bentyne, Janis Siegel and Alan Paul -- walk out onstage and talk to the audience about their loss, their love for Hauser and their affection for Curless.
Curless, who came to the band from an a cappella vocal group called M-Pact, has taken over Hauser's parts, but his experience as a beat-boxer doing rhythms with M-Pact has added another dimension to Manhattan Transfer's sound.
"Trist can be a drum, he can be a bass,'' Bentyne said. "His job in M-Pact is that beat-box thing that Tim didn't focus on, so we have a built-in orchestra now.''
This really is a perfect match! Tim left huge shoes to fill and Trist is one of the few who can fill them.
February 9, 2015
A Cappella at the Grammys
Huge congratulations to Pentatonix for winning the first ever Grammy in the new category of "Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella" for their arrangement of Daft Punk on their CD release PTX, Vol 2. They also got to present a Grammy along with Barry Gibb who knows a bit about vocal harmony himself. The other a cappella winner of the night was Craig Hella Johnson with his choir Conspirare who won the Best Choral Performance category. Very pleased to see Tim Hauser mentioned in the Those We Lost section but VERY disappointing there was no mention of Ward Swingle, especially considering he won five Grammys including Best New Artist. There were sadly many great names on that list this year but Ward certainly deserved to be one of them.
February 3, 2015
A Cappella Superbowl spot
A cappella gets a great "shout out" during the Superbowl with this ad for the upcoming Pitch Perfect 2 movie. Cool.
February 2, 2015
Roomful Of Teeth's Vision To Be Known As Band, Not A Choir
When singers sing together, unaccompanied, it sometimes feel like a minor miracle, some sleight-of-hand or hidden alchemy at work: Without frets, keyboards, mechanical levers, measured blasts of voltage or skins to tighten or loosen, how do they pull it off? How do singers stay together, in tune, through mind-boggling harmonic changes and hyperactive counterpoint, and still manage to land on their collective feet?
Roomful of Teeth, a N.Y.C-based eight-member vocal ensemble, takes that core mystery, rides it out to the nearest cliff and tosses it over the edge. Not content to vocalize within usual Western-music parameters, or to borrow extended techniques from composer Meredith Monk (one of their main influences), they scour the globe for ways to expand their sonic palette: multiphonic Tuvan throat-singing, Appalachian yodeling, Hindustani and Persian classical vocal techniques, and so on. They also grunt, growl, sing drones, chant, bray like '70s rock stars or croon like Broadway divas. It's all in play.
Nor are they happy just to arrange pre-existing music; Roomful of Teeth only performs pieces written just for them, or else they write their own. One of their internal compositions, Caroline Shaw's four-movement "Partita for 8 Voices," won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music — arguably the most prestigious award a composer can win. Their self-titled debut features music by hot young composers — William Brittelle, Caleb Burhans, Judd Greenstein, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Rinde Eckert, Tuneyard's Merrill Garbus and Shaw herself — and won a Grammy Award in 2014 for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance. On the way to becoming one of the premier new-music vocal groups in the country, they've also found favor with the Pitchfork crowd and NPR listeners. It's all perfectly in keeping with founding director Brad Wells' vision of a band, "not an f-ing choir."