Manhattan Transfer plays the Mahaiwe
GREAT BARRINGTON -- When the four singers that make up jazz pop group The Manhattan Transfer -- Tim Hauser, Janis Siegel, Alan Paul and Cheryl Bentyne -- take the Mahaiwe stage on Saturday, it will be a far different experience from the last time they visited the Berkshires.
Instead of a Tanglewood-sized show before an audience of thousands, they will perform an intimate, personal style of concert, accompanied only by the piano playing of longtime music director Yaron Gershovsky.
Launched this spring, the Living Room Sessions format strips the four-part harmonizing group down to the bare musical essentials. It taken them to smaller venues across the United States, from New York to Oregon.
"We've played with orchestras, big bands, sextets, quintets, everything," group founder Tim Hauser explained from his Los Angeles home. "We never just went out with Yaron and ourselves. It's very intimate and a lot of fun."
Mahaiwe Executive Director Beryl Jolly agreed.
"It can be simple and sophisticated at the same time, relaxed and very powerful," she said. "It embodies what we are trying to do at the theater."
The theater has a very special warmth that works beautifully for this kind of show, she explained. "The acoustics are just very pure, very simple; it resonates."
Musicians of all kinds have enjoyed the Mahaiwe acoustics in its 100 plus years. Just recently, Jolly received a photograph from someone whose great-aunt played piano there for silent movies and the local Johnny Modolo Orchestra.
"It's a fascinating connection to the history of this theater and the Great Barrington community," Jolly said.
It has been 40 years since The Manhattan Transfer first performed together in New York clubs. Formed by musicians Hauser met while driving a taxi cab to make ends meet, they quickly took audiences and airwaves by storm with their hit single, "Operator," and topped the charts internationally with "Chanson d'Amour."
"I don't think there's any trick or magic to keeping it fresh," Hauser said. "When you actually love the music, you love what you're doing, that comes through."
Hauser, who grew up in nearby Troy, N.Y., said the Mahaiwe audience can expect a cross section of music from their career, including popular titles like "Birdland," "Java Jive" and "The Boy From New York City."
"With any band that's been together that long, you can't put everything into the show," he said, "so we try to give it a nice balance between things that people expect and stuff that we think is just a really good part of our catalog."
With a host of Grammy Awards under their belt, they have produced an album of Chick Corea compositions, recorded with musicians from Tony Ben nett to BB King and James Taylor, and even released a children's album, "Tubby the Tuba."
Back in the 1970s, the group re-imagined vintage songs from the ‘30s and ‘40s. Their latest project, the Philadelphia Sound, looks back to the ‘70s and ‘80s.
The music is not simply retro covers, Hauser explained.
"We're trying to make it more of a contemporary album and put our own style onto it," he said.
After 40 years traveling around the world, as far afield as Aus tralia and Japan (where they recorded three live albums), Hauser credits his longevity to an almost "boring" lifestyle.
"When the show's over, I go back to my room and I go to bed," he said. "I just try to take good care of myself on the road and get as much rest as I can."
When not on tour 100 days of the year, Hauser remains close to his colleagues in L.A. He had listened to Siegel's new solo album with his wife that morning, he said, and bandmate Paul was expected to visit that afternoon.
"We've managed to stay together and be friends for all these years, even despite certain differences that we have," he explained. "We really do care about each other."
When he was driving his taxi cab, Hauser recalled, "I was hoping that I could get a career going in the United States. Inter nation ally and all this stuff, I couldn't have foreseen that at all."
"Sometimes I tell people I've been moved around on a cosmic chessboard," he mused. "Those things are beyond explanation. My motto in life is ‘show up; things happen.' "
And happen they will at the Mahaiwe on Saturday -- one four-part harmony at a time. If you go ...
What: The Manhattan Transfer
When: Saturday at 8 p.m.
Where: Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, 14 Castle St.,
Information: www.mahaiwe.org, (413) 528-0100
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