“Janis Siegel’s Tender Trap evokes romance and passion”! – All About Jazz
JANIS SIEGEL Over the past three decades, the voice of Janis Siegel a nine-time Grammy winner and a seventeen-time Grammy nominee has been an undeniable force in The Manhattan Transfer’s diverse musical catalog. Alongside her career as a member of this 32-year musical institution, Siegel has also sustained a solo career that has spawned more than a half dozen finely-crafted solo albums and numerous collaborative projects, amassed a large international fan base and garnered consistently high critical praise.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1952, Siegel learned about the music business at an early age. By the time she was 12, she was singing with an all-girl pop trio called The Young Generation. By the time she and her bandmates had graduated from high school, they’d released two singles – “The Hideaway” (b/w “Hymn of Love”) on Red Bird Records, and “It’s Not Gonna Take Too Long” (b/w “Diggin’ You”) on Kapp Records. After graduating from high school, the trio shifted from pop to acoustic folk and rechristened themselves LaurelCanyon. But it was a chance encounter that steered her into The Manhattan Transfer.
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Tim Hauser was a taxi driver with musical aspirations who happened to pick up LaurelCanyon’s conga player one night. The percussionist invited Hauser to a party, where he met Siegel and asked her to sing on some demos he’d been working on. Hauser invited Siegel to join a four-part vocal group that he’d been trying to reconstruct (an earlier version of The Transfer with a much different tone and style had existed briefly in the late ‘60s). When she joined Hauser, Laurel Masse and Alan Paul, the Manhattan Transfer was born. The group’s self-titled debut album in 1975 ushered in a renaissance in vocal-based music and marked the opening chapter of the foursome’s quarter-century-plus success story. Over the years, Janis’ unmistakable voice has become one of the group’s most recognizable trademarks.
She also gained a reputation as a vocal arranger by writing five of the charts for the group’s acclaimed masterwork, Vocalese, seven charts for the group’s Grammy-winning album Brasil, and won a Grammy herself in 1980 for her arrangement of “Birdland.” In 1993, she and her Manhattan Transfer colleagues received their honorary doctorates from the Berklee School of Music, and in 1999 they were among the first class of inductees into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
But Siegel has been riding a dual career track for nearly two decades. In addition to her stage and studio work with The Manhattan Transfer, she launched her solo career in 1982 with the release of Experiment in White – a rare but favorite album among Siegel’s fans. Her followup solo effort, At Home, earned her a Grammy nomination in 1987 for Best Female Jazz Vocal. She collaborated with jazz pianist Fred Hersch on the 1989 effort, Short Stories, which JazzTimes ranked “among the most graceful, thoroughly heartbreaking efforts of the modern era, thanks to her rich, emotive vocals.” That same year, the New York Music Awards named her Best Female Jazz Singer. Not one to walk away from a successful formula, Siegel rejoined Hersch in the making of Slow Hot Wind in 1995, and The Tender Trap in 1999. In addition to Hersch, The Tender Trap session roster included high-profile players like Michael Brecker, Hank Crawford, Russell Malone and Victor Lewis.