Cheryl Bentyne

When Cheryl Bentyne joined The Manhattan Transfer in 1979, everything became “just right.” It has been with her that the group has attained its status as the most successful harmony group of all time – each part coming together with an unmistakable chemistry that not only nurtures the group as a whole, but lets the individual contributions of each partner come through. Cheryl’s are obvious: From her memorable solo in “Meet Benny Bailey” to her portrayal of Lucy in the “Blee Blop Blues” video to her exquisite voicing of Django Reinhardt’s guitar solo on “Clouds” (adapted from Nuages) on SWING, her talents are much of what is The Manhattan Transfer.

Born on January 17, 1954, Cheryl was raised in a musical family. Along with her parents, Cheryl and her three brothers lived in Mt. Vernon, Washington. Her father was a swing musician, known as “The Benny Goodman of the Northwest.” Her mother was a singer, so it was only natural that Cheryl would be interested in music. Her interests included theatre, classical piano – which she studied for seven years – and of course, singing. She began singing at age 13. “My mother, who heard me sing in a school play, said, ‘My God! You can sing! Why don’t you go sing with your Dad?” So on Friday and Saturday nights, I’d be singing tunes like “Hello Dolly” and “Am I Blue?” to Dixie and swing fans,” Cheryl remembers. Singing these tunes with her father’s band at the Elks Club gave her a lot of great experience. When asked about her musical influences, Cheryl says: “My father – a great swing musician, clarinet especially!” Cheryl is often given the clarinet parts in the vocalese tunes the group has done – her voice is perfectly suited to be a clarinet. She adds, “My mother was an encouraging force and got me singing in my Dad’s band.” She also lists Judy Garland, “for being the greatest of them all.”

Upon graduation from high school, Cheryl moved to nearby Seattle and joined “The New Deal Rhythm Band.” She was a part of the group for four years, delighting audiences wherever she went. They combined comedy and improvisation with theatrical swing numbers. They relied on campy performance and inventive costumes, which was very similar to the early days of The Manhattan Transfer. They were a Seattle sensation and toured along the West Coast. They were performing at a private party on a ferry when Cheryl caught the attention of a promoter and talent agent who were attending the party. They convinced her that her talent and vocal ability could support a solo career for herself. Interested in pursuing a solo career, Cheryl made the move to Hollywood in 1977, and began assembling material for her own show. Before long, she was getting regular bookings. “I did two years of hoot nights at places like The Troubadour. I was having so much fun I didn’t realize I was paying dues,” she recalls.

In June of 1979, she was coming out of The Baked Potato, a small jazz club in LA, when her manager asked her if she would like to audition for a spot in The Manhattan Transfer. This was the chance she had been waiting for in her career. She remembers being ecstatic and says that her scream of excitement could be heard for blocks! “It was the perfect band for me. I had been working with The New Deal Rhythm Band, which did a lot of the Transfer’s tunes, so I knew I’d fit right in,” she says. The next day she phoned the Transfer’s office and arranged the audition. She was asked to prepare “Candy,” and “You Can Depend On Me,” and she learned “Four Brothers” just in case. She arrived at Janis’ to meet the group and audition the next afternoon. “Janis offered me a cup of herb tea to help calm my nerves and the four of us spent a few moments getting to know each other,” she says. Cheryl sang both songs she had been asked to prepare with the group, and then sight-read “Snooty Little Cutie.” She left feeling great, confident of her singing and extremely impressed with Janis, Tim and Alan, as well as with the direction that they wanted The Manhattan Transfer to take. So much was riding on this decision: Janis, Tim, and Alan needed a soprano who was gifted and agile enough to immediately blend into the unique four-part harmony sound they had achieved. Plus, they needed a singer who was a performer – someone to look good, have stage presence, to entertain as well as sing great. Add to that they needed someone they could enjoy being with for extended tours and hours in the studio – it was a big decision. Cheryl fit the bill, and Janis, Tim, and Alan chose her to become their new partner. She was invited back to Janis’ a few days later. Janis opened the door with a glass of champagne in hand and “after lots of hugs and a few tears,” Cheryl recalls, they toasted the new partnership.

Cheryl’s energy and style turned out to be the perfect compliment to the group’s already dynamic image. Her debut album with the group was Extensions, which was a landmark album for the group. Their success has continued to grow, and so has Cheryl’s talent. She has expanded her talent beyond singing to include composing and vocal arranging. She won a Grammy Award in 1985 with Bobby McFerrin for their vocal arrangement of “Another Night In Tunisia,” from Vocalese. She also co-wrote the lyrics to “Sassy”, from Offbeat of Avenues. She has also added her vocal talent to other artist’s recordings. She appeared on bassist Rob Wasserman’s highly acclaimed Duets album in 1989. Her voice can also be heard on the soundtrack to 1991′s “Mortal Thoughts” but you must watch the movie to hear her, as the soundtrack was never released. Cheryl also teamed up with Janis on the “Dick Tracy” soundtrack, but for some reason their cut wasn’t on the CD.

Cheryl released a solo album in 1992, entitled Something Cool. It was a collaboration with composer/trumpeter Mark Isham, who produced, arranged and performed on the project. “I’ve always admired Mark’s work, both his film scores and his own albums. I felt there was something about his moody, emotional and sometimes dramatic themes that would be compatible with my own singing style,” says Cheryl. She explains that she was delighted with the results: “The original concept was to do an updated tribute to the cool jazz singers of the 50′s, particularly June Christy. But Mark did such an incredible job on the arrangements that the songs sound strikingly modernistic and beautiful. These arrangements have brought out a new dimension to my singing, I think. It’s like nothing I ever heard.”

In 2000, Cheryl recorded and released an original cast album of her new musical revue based the music and wit of Cole Porter. Dreaming Of Mister Porter has played to sold-out audiences and received rave reviews in Boston and Seattle. The CD was sold for a limited time through The Manhattan Transfer Fan Club, but is currently out of print.

In 2002, Cheryl Bentyne released a solo album called Talk of the Town. It was originally available only in Japan (2202 King KICJ 439). Track Listing: “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “Little Butterfly,” “Very Thought Of You,” “Love Me Or Leave Me,” “Everything Happens To Me,” “Farmer’s Market,” “Talk Of Town / Get Out Of Town,” “Girl Talk,” “Meaning Of The Blues,” “It Might As Well Be Spring,” “These Foolish Things,” “Still Good Friends.” Her backing band for this album includes: Kenny Barron, John Patittuci, Lewis Nash, David “Fathead” Newman, Corey Allen, and Chuck Mangione. In 2004, the album was released domestically on the Telarc label with a different cover. Purchase Here

In 2003, Cheryl released a wonderful DVD out called Among Friends. This amazing session features features Corey Allen on piano, Grant Geissman on guitar, Kevin Axt on bass, and David Tull on drums. This recording is NOT an attempt to “document” a live recording of Cheryl and her band, but instead an exploration of high-resolution recording coupled with aggressive 5.1 channel surround mixing. AIX Records uses no EQ, dynamics processing or artificial reverberation… everything you hear is as the musicians played it. Purchase Here

Cheryl Bentyne released two more solo CDs during 2003. Both Moonlight Serenade (KICJ-453) and The Lights Still Burn (KICJ-462) were released on King Records (of Japan). Track Listing for Moonlight Serenade: “Moonlight Serenade” (Glen Miller / Mitchell Parish), “Blue Prelude” (Gordon Jenkins /Joe Bishop), “Alice In Wonderland” (Sammy Fain/Bob Hillard), “Caravan” (Dule Elington/Juan Tizol/Mills Irving), “How High The Moon” (Lewis Morgan/Nancy Hamilton), “Land Of Make Believe” (Chuck Mangione), “Soft Strum Blues” (Octavio Bailly/Al Jarreau), “My One And Only Love” (Guy Wood/Robert Mellin), “For Claudio” (Corey Allen/Alex Acuna), “Tull Tales” (Corey Allen), and “Since First I Saw Your Face” (Corey Allen).Players: Corey Allen – Keyboards, Don Alias – Percussion, Kevin Aks – Bass, Dave Tull – Drums/vocals, Grant Geissman – Guitar/Mandolin, Roger Treece – vocals, Mark Kibble – vocals, and special guest Kevin Mahogany. Purchase MOONLIGHT SERENADE Here

The Lights Still Burn is a mix of pop and jazz tunes with a track list that includes “Black Coffee”, “Killing Me Softly (With His Song)”, “Sophisticated Lady”, “What the World Needs Now” and many more. Purchase “THE LIGHTS STILL BURN” Here

Cheryl’s fourth release on King Records (of Japan) is called Cheryl Bentyne Sings “Waltz For Debby” (KICJ-477), which is a very intimate recording with just Kenny Barron and Ray Drummond. Purchase Here

Bentyne then joined the Telarc label in 2004 with a domestic release of Talk of the Town.

Cheryl’s second release on the Telarc label, Let Me Off Uptown, pays tribute to the legendary voice and music of Anita O’Day. One of the most hard-swinging vocalists in the annals of jazz, O’Day imbued every song she sang with a unique tonal quality, a compelling improvisational style and an innate sense of rhythm. Highlights of the 13-track set include the title track, a lighthearted duet with vocalist/trumpeter Jack Sheldon (who returns later in the set for “The Man with a Horn” and “Whisper Not”); a swinging rendition of “Honeysuckle Rose” propelled by Kevin Axt’s clean walking bass lines; and a mellow reading of “Skylark,” quietly underscored by Allen, Axt and drummer Dave Tull.

The Book Of Love is Cheryl’s third album on Telarc. Songs inclunde, “You Taught My Heart To Sing,” “Cry Me A River,” “Be My Love,” and “You Don’t Know Me.” Vocalist and fellow Telarc label-mate, John Pizzarelli duets with CB on “Blue Moon.” Also appearing on the album are Wayne Johnson, Bob Sheppard, Corey Allen, and “Take 6″ vocalists, Mark Kibble and Alvin Chea. Purchase Here

Cheryl currently lives in southern California with her husband, pianist/arranger Corey Allen, and their daughter Zoe, who was born in 1995. Be sure to visit Cheryl’s official website at: www.cherylbentyne.net

27 Responses to Cheryl Bentyne

  1. Richard Pare says:

    Belated Happy Birthday, Cheryl! You beat me to 57 by 40 days!

    Just saw you last night in Indianapolis and was damn near in tears from everyone’s performance. The opening 2 numbers by Chick were stunning beyond belief – I haven’t a clue how you guys managed to learn tunes that complex, never mind perform them with such beautiful precision. You need to do more of them in your show (if the effort doesn’t totally exhaust you!)

    Unfortunately, I’m already scheduled to be out of town when you come back to Carmel next December. DAMN!!!

    Thanks again for a wonderful evening of shear listening pleasure, and have a good time on the rest of your tour this year.

    Richard Pare
    Indianapolis

  2. Hi, Im an Italian singer/songwriter I would like to show you this song: “Bye bye Wigmore Hall”
    I dream a cover by the great Manhattan Transfer

    (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bDtZZPB_TU&feature=player_embedded)

  3. Loveling says:

    The finest of the fine. Adoring your vocal work since birth. Carry on Cheryl!

  4. Will Thornton says:

    Hi Cheryl…
    “Out damned spot!” remember that line from MacBeth…I was King Duncan…now hows that for a flashback..lol. Hoping to catch your show this Oct. in Seattle. I am living in Belllevue these days. Would love to see you and say “hi” if the chance allows….have followed you and the group for years waiting for that very opportunity. I knew even back in high school that you would make it big.

    Much love and break a leg,

    Mr. Bass man from behind you in choir, Will Thornton

  5. scot j massey says:

    LOVE YOUR VOICE! as well as the other partners. i must say i have been in love with THE TRANSFER since1976 . i saw the group in columbus ohio that year istill have the program from the concert. saw you in phoenix 2009 but i missed you in 2011. man am i bummed. if you folks do anything in phoenix this year , , small or large, please email.me NO ONE SINGS LIKE THE TRANSFER. I LOVE YOU. AND ALWAYS WILL SCOT J.

  6. Dennis Lind says:

    Hii Cheryl. My wife and I (Julie Stewart Lind….who was a year ahead of you at MVHS….I was class of 1970) really enjoyed the show at Jazz Alley. I’m the guy that came up to you from behind (returning from the restroom) as you were waiting to take stage for your solo….sorry if I suprised you. I found out the next day that my father, Ward Lind, worked with your dad at good ol Bert Robinson Hardware in Mount Vernon, back in the day!. Again, thanks for the great show.

  7. Lisette Bennun Bridges says:

    Hi Cheryl,
    I am the realtor that sold you your very first home in Venice. I don’t know if you remember me, but I have always been a fan. Much happiness…
    Lisette

  8. Richard Amaro says:

    Dear Cheryl,
    I am sending you my prayers for a quick recovery – will miss you at The Blue Note this year! But take good care of yourself!
    Best Regards,
    Rick Amaro

  9. Dean Reynolds says:

    Cheryl,

    Missed seeing you so much in Carmel, Indiana last night at the Palladium. The rest of the group were troupers and the New York Voices did a good job filling in, BUT it is not the same without you. Many, many prayers going out for your recovery. Love your voice, your spirit and the vibrancy you bring to the stage.

    Dean

  10. Phil Granito, The Duprees says:

    Hi Cheryl,
    Get well soon. I can’t wait to see you, “TEAR IT UP”, as you ALWAYS do.
    Cheers,
    Phil Granito

  11. Don O says:

    Both my wife Margaret and I always enjoy the TMT blue note Christmas schedule. A few years back you even sang Santa Baby ( my favorite) for us. We truely missed your presence this year and wish you a speedy and healthy recovery. We hope to see you back on the stage soon.

  12. Carola und Werner Binn says:

    Dear Cheryl,
    We are Fans of the Manhattan Transfer since about 30 yaers! Tonight we read in the Internet that you
    fall in illnes.We are very sad about it and wish you Healthy and Luck for the Future.
    Thanks for wonderfull Music, thanks for You and the “Manhattan Transfer.
    Carola und Werner

  13. Bobbie Greenlee says:

    Cheryl, I was so surprised to see that you are on the sick list. I am your cousin Bobbie from Mn. and was planning on getting together with you in March. If you get this message please get ahold of me by e-mail or phone . I’ll be thinking of you and will remember you in my prayers.

  14. Chris says:

    Missed you last night at the Detroit concert – my 8TH! Did not know you were ill, many wishes for a full recovery. You 4 have brought joy to my life for the last 40 years, may you continue to work your magic for years to come!

  15. scott berglund says:

    saw you guys 30 years ago at orchestra hall in mpls. saw the doobie bros the night before at the state fair and was a little suprised to see their drummer at your gig. after 30 years and many more concerts yours is still the greatest entertainment i have ever seen. cant wait to see you at the late show saturday night. hope eldorado caddy puts in an appearance. scott 3-9 12

  16. Ray Lee says:

    Cheryl has had an amazing recovery.I knew she had been taken ill but not that ill.I was quite shocked to have found out on her blog that it was cancer.She is amazing!I look forward to seeing you all again in concert in London uk.Please come back.

  17. Udo Glasmacher says:

    Hi Cheryl,

    I hope your recovery is in good progress, and wish to see you back on stage as soon as possible. Saw you back in 2010 with MT on stage, it was a great experience and a deep inspiration. Wish You all the best….

    Greets from Germany…

  18. Lynda says:

    Amazing performance of Cole Porter’s “It’s All Right With Me” tonight in Santa Cruz! My first opportunity to see/hear TMT live, and every one of you, together and separately, made it worth it!

    Thanks – come back soon!

  19. Lynne McNamara says:

    Saw you last night in Vancouver – oh my gosh. Have been a fan for years, listen to you often on my iTunes and have seen you on stage a few times – you always amaze. Your performance just made me so happy. Thanks so much! Please come again soon — although, with the size of your tour, I’m sure you’ll all need a looong rest when it’s over! :0)

  20. Donna Bishop says:

    Hello again Cheryl. Just wanted to tell you again that it was great meeting all of you on my flight from Quebec today. What I didn’t get a chance to share was that I am a cancer survivor too.Non Hodgkin’s Lymph. 14 years this past May. You look great and I hope you continue to feel better everyday. Take care and hope to catch one of your shows when I am not flying the skies. Donna Bishop, FA ExpressJet.

  21. Sharon Carlisle says:

    My daughter is screaming! Her first concert is Dec. 8th in Cerritos, CA. She is 8 years old and knows most of all words to The Best Of! Thank you for giving me this chance to show her great music.
    Hugs
    Sharon and Shannon Carlisle. (This will be the 10th time for me to see you all again. I’m honored)

  22. Ric Craig says:

    Saw you guys last night in TO! Fantastic… been a fan of yours since college! Love to listen to your harmonies and all the great studio musicians you had on all your albums!! Im a drummer in LA and loved Steve Haas’s playing! I know of him through a band we both play in around LA… …. again, Fantastic show…. brought back many memories!

  23. Dave Meacham says:

    I have been a fan for too many years to count, less than 40, but over 38. I have had the good fortune to experience the Transfer, twice, when I lived in Northern Az, and you were appearing in Phoenix. Those were the best concerts I have ever attended. I would love to have the opportunity to experience the Transfer live again. I now live in Baton Rouge, La., and do wish you all would appear here. Ms Cheryl, I send my wishes for good health, and keep you in my prayers. You ar my Nightingale Singing in Berkeley Square.

  24. dot dale says:

    My son has introduced me to Soundcloud and I just found a long lost and much missed album – Bodies and Souls – Wonderful, like hearing old friends, thank you for your musicality, you show us how it should be done…………..

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