The Symphony Sessions

Manhattan Transfer

Rhino, 2006

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


I hate it when I forget about a band I like.

I have always enjoyed the a cappella work of The Manhattan Transfer and yet I own absolutely nothing by them. Somehow, when I’m stalking iTunes or record stores, the cool vocal jazz of Tim Hauser, Alan Paul, Cheryl Bentyne and Janis Siegel slips my mind. And I hate that.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

So, kudos to the good folks at Rhino (who, incidentally, have gone from hawking '70s box sets to providing interesting original music in their own right, and yay for them) for bringing the Transfer back to my attention. The Symphony Sessions pairs Manhattan Transfer’s four-part harmony with the Prague City Symphony, and it’s a delight.

There are few real surprises on The Symphony Sessions; even my cursory knowledge of The Manhattan Transfer’s discography recognizes most of these songs. The production is slick, elegant and clean, with the vocal interplay being the focus of the CD. The orchestral music doesn’t hide or muddy up the music, but supports it without overwhelming it. It is, in a word, perfect.

From the opening cut, the Bobby Troup standard “Route 66,” The Symphony Sessions is all about the kind of music that makes you swing, relax and desire to hang out in a Damon Runyon novel -- which is as it should be. They mix other people’s standards – ranging from Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” to Rufus Wainwright’s “Vibrate” -- with their own signature tunes like “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square” and the unbelievably complex “Birdland.”

My favorite by far, however, is a song I’d never heard before, “The Offbeat Of Avenues,” which has utterly mind-blowing harmonies and incredibly intricate lyrical work backed up with an infectious backbeat. Talk about music that will blow your socks off; this will do it, no problem.

Fans should snap this up immediately, and those who haven’t had the pleasure should check it out. The Symphony Sessions is The Manhattan Transfer at their best, and that’s pretty damned good.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


I was a huge fan of Manhattan Transfer. I went to see the acoustic concert that they were touring on.First they were an hour late, with no explanation or apology to the audience. Next they insisted that the air in the bldg be turned up sky high to the point that you almost needed a coat on in the middle of summer. Then they asked for request from the audience. Someone shouted Twilight zone. They went on a rant saying that is an electronic song and they won't sing it. Understandable that acappella might not do that song justice. But if you had heard the way they went off on the requester you wouldn't have believed that they could be so rude to people that have paid to see them. They were terribly rude throughout the concert. They completely turned me off to them. It's too bad becuause I use to love them. And to be honest it was a very good performance.

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