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Catching Up With the Manhattan Transfer

The game-changing vocal group has soldiered on since the death of its fearless leader, Tim Hauser

The current Transfer, from left: Trist Curless, who replaced late group founder Tim Hauser, Cheryl Bentyne, Alan Paul and Janis Siegel

Even within the jazz milieu, one of the few art forms where longevity is more norm than exception, Tim Hauser’s legacy is remarkable. Hauser, who died in October 2014 at age 72 after a lengthy battle with cancer, was the driving force behind the Manhattan Transfer. He founded the group as a quintet in 1969, and then reshaped it as a quartet three years later, alongside Janis Siegel, Alan Paul and Laurel Massé. Remarkably, the foursome saw just one line-up change, in 1978, when Cheryl Bentyne replaced Massé.

Determined that his health issues not disrupt the group’s exhaustive touring schedule, Hauser remained fully active until late 2013, when he was sidelined by back surgery. The other three members began casting about for a sub and, as Bentyne remembers, “I called Claude McKnight from Take 6 and said, ‘We need a bass. What are your thoughts?’ He said, ‘Well, the guy from [the L.A.-based a cappella group] m-pact, Trist Curless, is fantastic. He reads well, he has great ears and he could pick up your stuff in a second.’ So I called Trist and he said, ‘I’d love it.'”

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