Manhattan Transfer - "Couldn't Be Hotter" reviews
Featured Artist: Manhattan Transfer
CD Title: Couldn't Be Hotter
Year: 2003
Style: Jazz Vocals

Musicians: Tim Hauser, vocal; Alan Paul, vocal; Cheryl Bentyne, vocal; Janis Siegel, vocal; Lew Soloff, trumpet; Wayne Johnson, guitar; Yaron Gershovsky, keyboards; Larry Klimas, saxes

Review: I've always felt that the Manhattan Transfer has been sort of taken for granted in popular music circles. They are almost too good. For decades now they have epitomized the classic vocal group, moving very easily into a variety of styles - Brazilian, swing, bebop, and flat-out pop. The four members - Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Cheryl Bentyne, and Janis Siegel - have been together quite a long time now, and it certainly shows in their live performances and on this new recording. The vocal harmonies are tight beyond belief, and they swing their collective tails off.

In this new live set , recorded live on tour in Japan, they concentrate mainly on the music of Louis Armstrong and other swing era warhorses, and the result is an electrifying performance, sparked by a relentlessly rocking backup band and several featured soloists. The highlights are many , but a few must be mentioned. Tim Hauser has a hilariously swinging time with "Old Man Mose" , the band pushing him to no end. Cheryl Bentyne displays her gorgeous ballad pipes on "Sugar" and "Do You Know What Means To Miss New Orleans?" "Up A Lazy River" is given a fresh new treatment with Alan Paul (who has matured remarkedly as a vocalist) and the amazing Lew Soloff on trumpet (remember his solo years ago on the Blood Sweat and Tears hit "Spinning Wheel"?) Here he does his best Louis Armstrong imitation, with the halting phrasing and spectacular high notes. Quite a performance. Janis Siegel puts her individual stamp on "Stompin' At Mahogany Hall" and "Nothin' Could Be Hotter" as well as seamless lead vocals on several other tracks. "Twilight Zone", a Transfer hit from some time ago, is thrown in for good measure, and it cooks, thanks in no small part to that terrific band. The set concludes with a lovely , quiet version of "My Foolish Heart", the famous Transfer harmonies remarkedly intact.

This impressive set shows that the Transfer is still at the peak of their collective powers, and the association with Telarc should be a fruitful one. As I stated earlier, they are too good, and its time we acknowleged them as one of the very best of a dying breed, THE classic vocal group. This CD is proof positive . "Couldn't Be Hotter" indeed.
Reviewed by: Rick Dobrydney
Couldn't Be Hotter
The Manhattan Transfer

The ManhattanTransfer, collectively consisting of Alan Paul, Janis Siegel, Cheryl Bentyne, and Tim Hauser, has been performing as a unit for more than 30 years. As a vocal group, they offer a lighthearted foil to Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. The Transfer has always been more pop-oriented than smiled upon by the jazz community. They were never afraid to include novelty tunes and rock influence in their fine performances. But still, the group has retained a smart hipster's identity and has made high caliber music for the better part of their run.

After having recorded for Atlantic since the mid-1990s, the group jumps to Telarc and kicks things off with this live set recorded in Tokyo in late 2000. On the whole the group remains this side of bebop, opting for a program of traditional jazz and swing tunes, as well as a generous smattering of Armstrongtonia.

Pops looms large over the Transfer's concert landscape on Couldn't Be Hotter. "Old Man Mose," and "Up a Lazy River" were both Armstrong vehicles. "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans" and "Stars Fell On Alabama " round out the Satchmo lovefest. "Blue Again" is seasoned with Wayne Johnson's slide guitar, providing a rich stew of influences, including Chicago Jazz and Doo Op. "Nuages" is full of whimsy and fun, bragging Jon Hendricks-penned lyrics over Django's peerless melody. Saxophonist Larry Klimas' contributions to especially "Sugar" and "Stompin' At Mahogany Hall," are effervescent and humid all at once.

"Nothing Could Be Hotter Than That," "It's Good Enough To Keep," and "Don't Let Go" span the considerable breadth of the Transfer's capability, amply demonstrating the group's ability to sing double-time. Winding it down, "Twilight Zone / Twilight Tone" is pure entertainment. Perfect bliss comes through on the closer, eight minutes of "My Foolish Heart." Ensemble singing may not get any better.