TRIBUTE TO JOE FARRELL : THE TRANSFER PULLS OUT ALL THE STOPS
On the heels of its multiple Grammy victory for the “Vocalese” album, Manhattan Transfer was headlined Wednesday in a memorial concert at the Wadsworth Theater honoring Joe Farrell, the flutist and saxophonist who died recently.
Because the quartet’s appearance on the awards show was cluttered with outsiders, it was doubly agreeable to hear the group in a normal setting, with its own rhythm section augmented on some numbers by the horns of the Don Menza orchestra.
The success of the album has enabled the Transfer to establish a firm jazz identity, with the help of inspired lyrics by Jon Hendricks. Several cuts from the LP were performed, notably Quincy Jones’ “Meet Benny Bailey,” Thad Jones’ lyrical ballad “To You,” and Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring.” On this last, as Janis Siegel sang the Hendricks words fitted to Brown’s original solo, you found yourself wishing you could listen that fast.
The Transfer displayed its collectively keen harmonic ears on “Blue Champagne” and “Candy,” the latter offering a reminder of Cheryl Bentyne’s gently agreeable timbre. “Jeannine” was a blockbuster finale, building to such a rhythmic hurricane that the group had to encore with “Blee Blop Blues,” using the chart played on “Vocalese” by the Basie band.
Menza’s men played a vigorous set of their own, their impact reduced by the overloud bass of Joel DiBartolo, but energized by such moments as a tenor sax battle: Menza rough and explosive, Pete Christlieb smooth and expressive.
The first half of the show consisted entirely of guitar sets. Kenny Rankin sang and played acoustic guitar pleasantly; Wayne Johnson led a rock trio (but later played in the Transfer’s rhythm section) and Stanley Jordan, in an unbelievable blend of inspiration and virtuosity, hammered his guitar strings through a blues that told us about jazz history.
Proceeds from the concert, to which the artists donated their services, go to the City of Hope Hospital and the Musicians’ Wives Relief Fund.