The Manhattan Transfer Brings 40-Year Catalog to the Park Theatre

Tickets are still available for the Saturday night show.

With a musical career that spans about 40 years, there's no question you've heard, snapped your fingers to, danced or found yourself humming along to a song by The Manhattan Transfer.

The eclectic and diverse musical harmonists have been playing to sold-out audiences and racking up Grammies ever since they broke out into the music scene in the 1970s.

If you're looking for a night out — and you're not against leaving the East Bay for an evening — head to the in Cranston tonight at 7:30 for a show that will either dredge your memories or get your toes tapping — or both.

and it should be fun, with a collection of tunes from their massive catalog that will please most everyone, said Janis Siegel, a founding member of the band.

"It's going to be a mixture of things from different albums," Siegel said in an interview. "We put together the set list right before the show and we do it based on what we think the audience is going to want to hear."

Aside from only minor changes to the four-part lineup over the years, the band has stayed together and intact despite the odds. Most bands never last more than a few years as a cohesive unit.

It seems The Manhattan Transfer have found harmony with more than just their voices.

What's the secret?

"If I told you, I'd have to kill you," Siegel said.

But seriously, "music is powerful stuff. We've been very lucky and grateful people still want to hear this kind of thing live. That's how we make our living — we travel the world and do this live."

The band's diverse sound hasn't hurt. They've explored doo wopp, hip hop, jazz, pop, reggae, rock. No genre is too far out of reach for the band's explorations.

"We can do what we want," Siegel said.

The only downside is the fact that people in the industry who market music are often scratching their heads when it's time to classify their albums.

"They're confused how to label us," Siegel said. But since the band has 10 Grammys and many more nominations, "we don't care at this point."

There have been no power struggles. There is no lead singer, so everyone has a chance to arrange, write and sing solo.

And people just love listening to a four-part harmony.

"It's a lost art and it's worth it to come to the show," Seigel said. 

The band's breakout album is arguably the 1979 Extensions, which included the strange track Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone, which included the sound of Ray Bradbury's introduction to the popular TV show and spooky instrumentals.

They've done other weird things: Japanese TV commercials, the movie soundtrack for the film Just a Gigolo, starring David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich, and an album with a young Japanese group called Snap "which I'm sure nobody has heard in America."

But the band is also well-versed in mainstream success. 

Long considered musical pioneers for broadening the horizons of music lovers and for introducing Bob Marley and The Wailers to American television audiences, Manhattan Transfer made Grammy history in 1981 by becoming the first group to simultaneously win a Grammy in both the jazz and pop categories. They are also responsible for putting out the second most honored album in pop history with Vocalese, earning 12 Grammy nominations, surpassed only by Michael Jackson’s Thriller at the time. To date, Manhattan Transfer has won 10 Grammys and has been nominated for 17. The group has also been inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

For Seigel, the immense success is the result of lots of work. She never got into music in search of success or fame, which she said is overrated.

"The work itself is the thing that engaged me," she said.

A young musician hoping to find success should study, learn music theory and practice a lot.

"And listen," she said.

The Manhattan Transfer is a product of its era, signed to Atlantic Records simply because the head of the company at the time liked their sound.

"We caught the end of a good scene and caught the end of Atlantic Records in the heyday, when they had an actual music person who loved music and was knowledgeable about it running it. We were signed because we appealed to his personal music tastes. I don't think he thought we'd sell a lot of records," Seigel said.

Today, the industry is like a meat grinder.

"It has turned to this idea of getting amateurs, signing them up to sell millions of records and then dispose of them. I don't think that record companies are interested in careers anymore," Seigel said. "Where's Adam Lambert, for instance? What happened to that?"

Tickets are still available for the show, but space is limited and the show is expected to be sold out by tomorrow night.


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