Manhattan Transfer – Vocalese (LP – 1985 reissue 2006)

Jazz, Soul
Manhattan Transfer

Since its inception in 1972, Manhattan Transfer has earned the admiration of jazz enthusiasts and lovers of extraordinary vocals alike. They have transformed their voices into instrumental sessions, all the while offering memorable melodies that have resonated with us all. All of their albums are impeccable both musically and vocally, but one album stands out: VOCALESE. With its white cover and black-and-white group photographs, this album exudes simplicity while being richly colorful in its content.
It’s within this album that you can experience their incredible rendition of “Another Night in Tunisia.” I have never heard a version of this track as brilliant and intelligent as theirs. The accompaniments by real instruments behind them are particularly discreet, allowing for a perfect balance. This same quality resonates throughout all the tracks on this album, though “Another Night in Tunisia” is undoubtedly its centerpiece.
One cannot help but admire the longevity of this group, which in my opinion will continue to thrive beyond its founding members. Manhattan Transfer has managed to bring forth a unique skill set that caters to a public demand for exquisite artistry. Their extraordinary vocal techniques and complete mastery of vocal arrangements are on full display. This album, even upon its initial release, was already timeless. The recipe is simple: the musical accompaniments are exclusively acoustic, highlighting the vocal intricacies of the singers. It’s worth noting that this is The Manhattan Transfer’s most critically acclaimed album. It garnered 12 Grammy Award nominations, placing it second only to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as the most nominated individual album.
The voices replicate the sound and atmosphere of the original instrumentation. Jon Hendricks, an expert in this field, composed all the lyrics for this album. Grammy Awards were won for “Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group” and “Best Vocal Arrangements for Voices” for Cheryl Bentyne and Bobby McFerrin’s arrangement of “Another Night in Tunisia.” The line up includes:

  • Cheryl Bentyne – vocals
  • Alan Paul – vocals
  • Janis Siegal – vocals
  • Tim Hauser – vocals

With the Count Basie Orchestra:

  • Ray Brown – Double Bass
  • Ron Carter – Double Bass
  • Richie Cole – Alto Saxophone
  • The Four Freshmen – Vocals
  • Dizzy Gillespie – Composer, Trumpet
  • Marshall Hawkins – Double Bass
  • Jon Hendricks – Composer, Creative Consultant, Vocals
  • Ralph Humphrey – Drums
  • Wayne Johnson – Banjo, Guitar
  • Philly Joe Jones – Drums
  • Thad Jones – Composer, Music Supervision
  • Bobby McFerrin – Arranger, Bass, Guitar, Bass Guitar, Percussion, Vocal Arrangement, Vocals
  • James Moody – Tenor Saxophone
  • John Patitucci – Double Bass
  • Dick Reynolds – Vocal Arrangement
  • Grady Tate – Drums
  • McCoy Tyner – Piano
  • Snooky Young – Trumpet

Side A:

  1. That’s Killer Joe
  2. Rambo
  3. Airegin
  4. To You
  5. Meet Benny Bailey
  6. Another Night in Tunisia

Side B:

  1. Ray’s Rockhouse
  2. Blee Blop Blues
  3. Oh Yes, I Remember Clifford
  4. Sing Joy Spring
  5. Move

The quality of this LP is comparable to the CD version, with a warmer sound but slightly less dynamic. It’s ideal for Hi-Fi sound enthusiasts. As for me, I’m going to go back and listen to their version of “Another Night in Tunisia.” Until next time, for more adventures in the realm of LPs…

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, August 8th 2023


To buy this LP


Here is the live version of “Vocalese” from 1986: