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JT Track Premiere: “Agua” by the Manhattan Transfer

Track is drawn from the vocal quartet's new Fifty album, celebrating the group's golden anniversary

Manhattan Transfer
The Manhattan Transfer (left to right): Cheryl Bentyne, Trist Curless, Alan Paul, and Janis Siegel

To many readers of a certain age, it may seem unbelievable, but it’s true: Ten-time Grammy Award-winning vocal quartet the Manhattan Transfer is turning 50 this year—on October 1, to be exact. Cheryl Bentyne, Janis Siegel, Alan Paul, and Trist Curless are celebrating this auspicious anniversary with the release of a new album called (natch) Fifty, to be released tomorrow (Sept. 23) by Concord. Recorded in collaboration with the WDR Funkhaus Orchestra, the album re-examines some classic Transfer tunes while also throwing in a few new ones. JazzTimes is honored to present the premiere of Fifty‘s leadoff track, a symphonic take on the Djavan/Brock Walsh composition “Agua,” newly arranged by Vince Mendoza and Blake Morgan.

In addition to Bentyne (soprano), Siegel (alto), Paul (tenor) and Curless (bass), the track features Yaron Gershovsky on piano, Boris Kozlov on electric bass, and Ross Pederson on drums.

Siegel comments: “So many Brazilian songs are about the beauty of nature, and the Djavan song ‘Agua’ is no exception. We first recorded it for our Brasil album [Atlantic, 1997], but we felt it deserved a symphonic treatment for the latest record. I was very happy to revisit this gorgeous composition, and I felt no one could do it more justice than the great arranger Vince Mendoza. For the vocal arrangement, we reached out to our friend from the British vocal group Voces 8, Blake Morgan. The marriage between Vince’s conception and Blake’s arrangement for voices was far beyond our expectations.” 

Other notable tracks on Fifty include a vocalese treatment of “The Man I Love” arranged by Paul and Gershovsky and a new arrangement of the Beach Boys classic “God Only Knows” by Amanda Taylor and Andrew Kesler.

For more information on the Manhattan Transfer, visit their website.