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Manhattan Transfer is celebrating its 40th year with a vocal tribute to a jazz fusion pioneer, keyboardist Chick Corea.
It's not often you hear an album dedicated to the music of Chick Corea. But if there's one group you can count on for a one-of-a-kind interpretation, it's Manhattan Transfer. Known for their vocal gymnastics on albums ranging from pop to swing, the quartet relied on their signature jazz harmonies to tap into Chick's complex melodies on their latest release The Chick Corea Songbook.
Longtime member Cheryl Bentyne says their biggest challenge was choosing songs compatible with their style.
"We listened to tons of his stuff, and we'd put on something and just listen to it, and then pretty soon, there were just 15 minutes of [instrumental] solos and we'd go, 'What do we do? What do we do with this?' So, it was very difficult," she explains. "We were inspired by a lot of his tonalities and his rhythmic concepts. It was all so intriguing. It was a real education for us musically, for our ears to try and develop something that we could make into a song.
"The songs we chose became something completely omni-dimensional," adds Bentyne. "I mean, rather than a single-dimension song, it became something much more than what we anticipated, I think."
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Manhattan Transfer's Cheryl Bentyne, Tim Hauser, Alan Paul and Janis Siegel are no strangers to jazz. In 1986, they earned 12 Grammy nominations for their album "Vocalese," taking home the award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.
Bentyne sag shows, we had a lot of sets, we had a lot of choreography, and then when 'Vocalese' came out and made such a big noise at the Grammys, we suddenly stood at four microphones and got real serious with our singing," she explains. "So, we really kind of honed in the visual performance aspect of our show and really became more serious jazz singers."
The Chick Corea Songbook includes some of his best-known works, including "500 Miles High," "Spain" and "Children's Song," first recorded with his band Return To Forever.
Chick appears with the group on a new song he composed for the album titled "Free Samba."
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