Over the past three and a half 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 36-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.
In an age when buyers and sellers are quick to jam music and musicians into convenient little boxes, Siegel - either as a solo artist or in a group setting - has already built a career on defying preconceptions and stereotypes. A Thousand Beautiful Things is another step in Siegel's ongoing pursuit of eclecticism.
"The question about The Manhattan Transfer was always: 'Are you a jazz group or a pop group?'" she says. "When we were concentrating on jazz , we recorded our album Vocalese which came out in 1985 and was wildly popular for us. We were embraced by the jazz purists and jazz radio, but pop radio wouldn't play us. But then when we did pop records, oh my God, the jazz people just went to pieces.
"Siegel's most recent collaborations and projects outside The Manhattan Transfer are many and varied. She is currently a touring member of the improvisational vocal group, Bobby McFerrin's Voicestra, made an appearance as a '30s-style Boswellian (as in The Boswell Sisters) cowgirl on the debut album by Frank Vignola and Joe Ascione, titled 33 1/3, and was a participant alongside Luciana Souza, Mulgrew Miller and the late James Williams in a tribute to jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center. Janis Siegel was also a member of the ensemble cast debuting Cy Coleman and Alan and Marilyn Bergman's jazz song cycle Songs For A New Millenium at the Kennedy Center. She appears with her duo partner Fred Hersch on 2 Hands 10 Voices, a benefit album for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a cause close to her heart, and also contributed three cuts to NY drummer Steve Hass' CD Traveler. The summer of 2003 found her an eager participant in the Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald. Siegel performed to rave reviews with an all-star ensemble including Dame Cleo Lane, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kevin Mahogany and Canadian jazz singer Denzil Sinclaire. In March 2008, she was asked again to pay tribute to her idol in a program called, "LA Phil Presents A Tribute To Ella." at Disney Hall in Los Angeles.
These days, you can find Janis in the place she loves most, the studio, producing various ventures for other artists and singing on projects ranging from patriotic Americana to a tribute to Lionel Hampton. The fall of 2008 will find her in the studio singing and co-producing with guitarist Frank Vignola, on a tribute to the great Johnny Mercer. This project will also feature Janis' girl trio, JaLaLa, which is comprised of former MT partner Laurel Masse and Lauren Kinhan from the New York Voices.
Siegel - who has made a home in Manhattan with her son, Gabriel, and generally follows her own muse - isn't about to get backed into the hopeless corner of trying to be all things to all people. Some styles are timeless and universal, regardless of prevailing trends. "I think people will always respond to emotion and to great songs sung well," she says. "And I think the vocalists in particular will always be in demand. There's nothing that approximates the human voice. In the end, when you come down to it, people want
to feel something."
I Wish You Love (2002) CD-83551
Friday Night Special (2003) CD-83566
Sketches of Broadway (2004) CD-83597
A Thousand Beautiful Things (2006) CD-83630
The Manhattan Transfer (1972 - Present)
Founding member of the world's pre-eminent vocal group, interpreting American music from Swing to Rock and Pop to vocalese and Rhythm and Blues. Over the years, Janis has sung lead on many of the Manhattan Transfer's biggest hits, including "Operator," "Twilight Zone," "The Boy from New York City," "Mystery," "Spice of Life," "Shaker Song," "Birdland," "Ray's Rockhouse," and the 5-million selling "Chanson D'Amour." Janis co-produced the group's Pastiche album, and has arranged many of the vocals on the Transfer's 18 albums, yielding her a Grammy for Best Vocal Arrangement for "Birdland." In 1991, Janis co-wrote and sang lead on the Grammy-winning performance for "Sassy."
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