The Anthology: Down in Birdland
Long before neo-swing was all the rage, Manhattan Transfer were raging neo-swingers. Vocalese -- singing lyrics that have been set to instrumental jazz compositions and solos -- has always been a specialty of this historically aware vocal quartet. So is a flair for spotting impeccable material. Among the jazz giants whose work is reinterpreted on this comprehensive collection are Clifford Brown, Ray Charles, Lester Young, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, and Fletcher Henderson. But Manhattan Transfer have always been all over the map when it comes to material. Songs by Tom Waits, the Brazilian star Djavan, the fusion band Weather Report -- "Birdland" is the group's signature song -- and 1940s hit-parade ditties all pop up. What makes everything such a kick is the foursome's balance of pristine harmony and good-time fun.