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Manhattan Transfer get us off to a flyer

The Manhattan Transfer: from left, Alan Paul, Cheryl Bentyne, Trist Curless and Janis Siegel (Photograph supplied)

The 44th annual Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts opened on a high note on Saturday night.

The Mid-Ocean Amphitheatre at the Fairmont Southampton was filled to capacity as Bermudian singers Gita Blakeney Saltus and Sheila Smith ably set the scene with a tribute to the late Aretha Franklin.

It included Carole King’s (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and Josh Groban’s arrangement of Rolf Lovland’s You Raise Me Up.

Next up was the main act.

The crowd were primed to hear the multiple Grammy Award-winning American band The Manhattan Transfer.

Vocalists Alan Paul, Cheryl Bentyne, Trist Curless and Janis Siegel took the stage.

They were backed by three instrumentalists — Yaron Gershovsky on keyboard, Ross Pederson on drums and Boris Kozlov on bass.

Their performances are extraordinary because, since all are virtuosic musicians, their delivery is always flawless and note perfect. Their idiom is jazz, their material hugely eclectic in time, space and emotional impact.

On Saturday evening, they gave us reimagined musical time capsules mined from the 1930s and 1940s.

It included two Ink Spot numbers — Java Jive and That Cat is High — and a new version of Ella Fitzgerald’s 1938 hit, A Tisket A Tasket, in which Janis Siegel created the young Fitzgerald’s voice perfectly.

Cheryl Bentyne showed operatic soprano range in Count Basie’s 1957 Corner Pocket and all vocalists sang a cover of the 1939 hit, Tuxedo Junction. They used their voices to recreate the original brass instrumentation.

Brass also featured in their own whimsical tragicomic creation, The Duke of Dubuque, introduced by Alan Paul. XTC’s 1987 The Man who Sailed Around His Soul featured Trist Curless using Indian classical music singing to accompany the drums.

As the evening developed, it became obvious that the group’s talents have been finely honed, over decades of working together, to a dazzling polish that looks effortlessly fresh. The Manhattan Transfer were obviously deeply loved by the audience. There were sections of the crowd that broke into spontaneous applause throughout.

The performance ended with an irresistible The Boy From New York City, which brought us all to our feet, only to be regaled by a wonderful version of Tequila.

We could not stop clapping. The Bermuda Festival is off to a great start.

The 44th Annual Bermuda Festival “She is Art” runs until March 9. E-mail: adminoffice@bermudafestival.org or Tel: (441) 295-1291