It took almost a decade for the Manhattan Transfer to hit their stride, but thanks to the vision and persistence of founder Tim Hauser, the group eventually became one of the finest and most celebrated jazz vocal groups of all time. At the start of the 1970s, the initial lineup of the group featured five vocalists, but their approach was too stylistically diverse and as a result, failed to catch the public's attention, and the group broke up shortly thereafter.
When they re-emerged as a four-piece, featuring Janis Siegel (alto), Laurel Masse (soprano), and Alan Paul (tenor), in addition to Hauser, things began to jell. They began building a strong following at many of the hippest New York City nightclubs, which is where they caught the attention of Atlantic Record's Ahmet Ertegun, which resulted in a new record deal and an association that would last many years.
The group's self-titled Atlantic debut achieved a modest hit with the 1950s gospel tune, "Operator," but they were still difficult to categorize. Extensive touring, a short-lived television series and additional album releases, which now included collaborations with Jon Hendricks (of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, who essentially originated the vocalese style back in the '50s) increased their popularity, but they were still struggling to survive.
In 1978, Masse was injured in a car accident, which limited her activities and she ultimately left the group, leaving Hauser, Siegal and Paul in search of a new soprano vocalist. The group relocated to California where they discovered Cheryl Bentyne, the daughter of a jazz bandleader who had the experience and technical facilities they were searching for. With Bentyne on board, they recorded the next Manhattan Transfer album, Extensions, which would be a breakthrough hit, earning the group their first two Grammy Awards.
By 1983, the Manhattan Transfer had scored additional hits, had several more Grammies under their belts and had won the Playboy and Downbeat "Best Jazz Vocal Group" categories three years in a row. Atlantic released the group's first greatest hits album, while the group went on to record their next album, Bodies and Souls.