One of the most acclaimed and innovative of all contemporary vocal groups, The Manhattan Transfer, will perform at the Kahilu Theatre Sunday, February 17, 2019 at 4 pm. Ticket Info below.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Alan Paul, one of the founding members of The Manhattan Transfer and an eight-time Grammy Award recipient. He was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, and began his professional career on Broadway at the age of 12 in the original Broadway cast of Oliver. As a child actor, he worked extensively in stage, film, and TV. Some of the productions included The King and I, The Pawnbroker, The Pursuit of Happinessand The Patty Duke Show.
In 1972, while still performing in Grease, Alan met Janis Siegel, Tim Hauser, and Laurel Masse and together they formed The Manhattan Transfer. With a career spanning over 45 years, They have recorded over thirty albums, were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and have received ten Grammy Awards. Known for their eclectic singing range, they were the first group to ever receive two Grammys in both jazz and pop categories for their top ten recordings of “The Boy From New York City” and jazz rendition of Count Basie’s “Corner Pocket.”
When he’s not touring with The Manhattan Transfer, Alan Paul also enjoys teaching voice and leading vocal jazz masterclasses for a new generation of singers at high schools and universities.
Aloha, Alan. Where did I reach you today?
At my home in Los Angeles.
The Manhattan Transfer was originally formed in 1969, so that makes this year a fiftieth anniversary for the group. With all the awards you’ve received over the years, why do you think the group has been so successful?
We’ve been very fortunate in our career to have the flexibility to explore and expand. Our music touched different nerves when we were signed with Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun, who was the co-founder of Atlantic Records. He allowed us that freedom, and to try different things. Having that freedom, I think, had a part to do with our longevity. I also think we’re like a family, so we have that bond together as well.
Will this be the group’s first Big Island performance?
I know that all of us have been to the Big Island, but I think that was more just exploring. I think it’s the first time we’re actually playing there.
What can fans look forward to at your upcoming show at the Kahilu Theatre?
We’re obviously going to do material from the legacy of the group. There’s so much material to pick from. We try to do a broad spectrum of music and we also have a new album that we recorded last year, so, we’re going to be doing some tunes from the new album as well.
Tell me about the new album.
It’s called The Junction and it’s the first album that features our newest member Trist Curless. As you probably know we lost our partner Tim Hauser, the founder of the group, four years ago. It was a long process… a lot of metamorphosis, and, in a sense, to get to the point where we were ready to record the album. We wanted to pay tribute to our history. We wrote a lot of the material that’s out there, but we wrote it with styles that reflect different albums than we had done in the past.
Besides the new one, do you have a favorite Manhattan Transfer album?
I have favorites. I would say the very first album that we did. I joined the group in 1972, and it was really a different group, not only personnel wise, but musically… The Extensions  album. That won us our first Grammy. It had “Birdland” and “Twilight Zone,” and It was a departure from what I call the “first wave” of the group. I love our Christmas album  that we did with Johnny Mandel, an absolutely brilliant arranger. I loved our Brazil album … Vocalese … it was really the first pure jazz album that we did, and I think it solidified the group as jazz even though we don’t just sing jazz.
Who are some of the contemporary singers or vocal groups that you listen to?
I saw Roberta Gambarini the other night in L.A. and sat in with her. She’s an absolutely brilliant jazz singer.
Besides the current tour, are you currently working on any new projects?
I’m working on a Manhattan Transfer documentary. I’m spearheading it as a member of the group. It’s really exciting, and something that we’ve long talked about. It’s the perfect timing now with the fiftieth anniversary. We’re doing a lot of touring this year. After we finish with our tour of Hawaii, we’re going down to Australia, and we’re doing a lot of Europe, as we did last year.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We’re really looking forward to coming. We’re going to have a day off on the Big Island, and I want to really explore it!
If You Go
The Manhattan Transfer will perform at the Kahilu Theatre Sunday, February 17 at 4 pm. Tickets are $65/$45/$25 and can be purchased at kahilutheatre.org, (808) 885-6868 or at the Kahilu Theatre Box Office located at 67-1186 Lindsey Road, Kamuela.
Visit The Manhattan Transfer’s official website: http://www.manhattantransfer.net/
Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.