Cheryl Bentyne : INTERVIEW


Here’s an interview from Cheryl Bentyne – 9-time Grammy award-winning jazz vocalist, soprano of The Manhattan Transfer!!!

Cheryl Bentyne


Cheryl Bentyne

When Cheryl Bentyne joined The Manhattan Transfer in 1979, it has been with her that the group has attained its status as the most successful harmony group of all time garnering them 10 Grammy Awards since 1980 – 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 (Grammy nominated)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, to Miles Davis’ solo on Tutu, her talents are much of what is The Manhattan Transfer.

Born on January 17, 1954, Cheryl was raised in a musical family. Her father was a swing musician, known as “The Benny Goodman of the Northwest.” Her mother was a part time 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 14 with her fathers Dixieland Swing band at the Elks Club.

Upon graduation from high school, Cheryl moved to nearby Seattle and joined “The New Deal Rhythm Band.” Which she refers to as her ‘college years”.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. Signed on the spot, Cheryl drove to Los Angeles a week later.  Before long, she was getting regular bookings.  “I did two years of hoot nights at The Troubadour and The Bla Bla Cafe. 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. She prepared several of the groups most popular songs and the next day…. was the new soprano in The Manhattan Transfer.

Her debut album with the group was Extensions, which was a landmark album for the group. Their success had 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 in 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, entitles Something Coolon Columbia Records. It was a collaboration with the composer/trumpeter Mark Isham, who produced, arranged and performed on the project.

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 Porterhas played to sold-out audiences and received rave reviews in Boston and Seattle.

In 2002, Cheryl Bentyne released a solo album called Talk of the Town. THis would be the first of her very successful CD’s recorded in Japan and would begin her collection of Swing Journal awards.It was originally available only in Japan (2202 King KICJ 439).In 2004, the album was released domestically on the Telarc label.

In 2003, Cheryl released a wonderful DVD 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.

Cheryl Bentyne released two more solo CDs during 2003. Both Moonlight Serenade( a vocal experiment with guest vocalists)(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 Parismix 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.

Cheryl’s fourth release on King Records (of Japan) is called Cheryl Bentyne Sings “Waltz For Debby”, which was her greatest success. (KICJ-477), It is a very intimate recording with just Kenny Barron and Ray Drummond. Released and available on CD baby as “New York Sessions”

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.

The Book Of Love is Cheryl’s third album on Telarc. Also appearing on the album are Wayne Johnson, Bob Sheppard, Corey Allen, and “Take 6” vocalists, Mark Kibble and Alvin Chea.

Cheryl then recorded The Cole Porter Songbook on King Records, soon to be released world wide on Cheryl’s label La Dee Dah.

Next and her final recording for King Records is The Gershwin Songbook, alos available on Artistshare Private Label. Still selling very well world wide.

Her current projects include Spa Music”BLISSONGS” available on White Swan Records as well as New Leaf distributions, on line.

She most recently met a young very talented Big Band writer/trumpet player Elliot Deutsch. and debuted her new sound Oct. 9 at a club in Los Angeles to a very enthusiastic audience.

Cheryl currently lives in southern California but holds her roots in Sudbury Ma. in a farm house built in 1836. Her daughter Zoe, now 16, is a very artistic one as well, already a professional photographer as well as actress. Be sure to visit Cheryl’s official website at:  HYPERLINK “” as well as her Facebook fan page.

Cheryl Bentyne – Interview

  • Hello Cheryl!! It is very honor for JVAJ to hold your 1day Masterclass in Tokyo this coming August!!! How are you feeling about going to Japan (though we know that you’ve been here so many times!)? 


I always love coming to my second home! Many friends, wonderful singers! An appreciation like nowhere else for jazz vocals. So much love .


  • Thank you for giving us an opportunity to meet and work with you this year! We guess you’ve already have taught a lot of Japanese students. What do you like about working internationally like this?


I have coached many Japanese singers in the U.S. long ago at Berklee College of Music in Boston and more recently in my own workshops in Los Angeles. Very hard working singers, great listeners, which for me, is key in learning phrasing and vocal style.


  • Could you let us know who are your musical idols/heroes? Please tell me about a couple of your most favorite musicians!!  


My musical hero’s are a combination of singers as well as instrumentalists. Singers that have had a strong influence on my are Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Shirley Horn, Carmen McCrea Sarah Vaughn, Audra McDonald, Rufus Wainwright, K.D.Lang, Frank Sinatra, Instrumentalists, Benny Goodman, my father, Miles Davis, Django Reinhart, Astor Piazzolla, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clark,  many many more!!!!!!!


  •  What part of singing Jazz you love the best? And what is your strong point as a jazz singer/performer?


What I love about singing jazz is the daring, free falling, trusting the notes and trying to vary the phrasing each time. Taking chances. My strong point is I am a story teller. I have a wide range ( still, even though my age has affected my range)…so I can sing in several octaves.


  • How about the recording? We know that you’re making lots of great CDs as a member of Manhattan Transfer and we love your own solo singing project too! Could you share your experience about CD making particularly about your new album?


My new CD is reArrangements Of Shadows ( the music of Stephen Sondheim)… this was a labor of love and fear!!! I have always wanted to sing his music but was not, emotionally ready until I walked into the studio…

I produced myself and feel very proud of my work. Sondheim’s music is very complex and challenging. I want to take it into a new land by using great jazz musicians to play and arrange (rearrange) familiar songs.

The Manhattan Transfers new CD The Junction, was10 years in the making. We had various illness in the group for 4-5 years, so it was all we could do to just gather together and tour. Sometimes with out Tim, sometimes without me.

After Tim’s passing we kept going and felt we just needed to sing. The time came to create new music with our new member Trist Curless. So we asked Melvyn Warren to produce us. He was a founding member of Take 6 and has gone on to be very successful both in the studio and in film music. Melvyn helped us create a new, yet completely Transfer sound. We are very proud of this new work.


  • What brought you to start working as an educator? What do you like about it? And what do you care most as a teacher?And what is your goal as an educator? 


I started coaching singers many years ago. It was requested by Berklee that I come in and coach performance. I did it for a year. I enjoyed working with new, fresh singers. They inspire ME!

I care about guiding young singers to believe in themselves and do all it takes( and it is a lot of work) to become the best they can be. To strive to be individuals and thrive in their own art.


  • Between the activities as a member of The Manhattan Transfer and your own project,  is there any difference of your role? And also Musicality? What do you care as a member of a team project and as a solo singer?


They are very different, as you know. Singing in the Transfer is a group dynamic which is always interesting, inspiring and challenging. We all participate together. It is a democracy, we all count. Then we all blend vocally. We love each other and it shows I think, you hear it in the harmony.

As a solo artist, it is all on me. The song choices, singing, planning and booking gigs. It is rewarding in a different way. I can stretch out vocally and take more chances.


  • Please let us know about how to keep yourself so creative and keep giving a lot to people around you.


Just keep the music growing inside and keep listening. It will change. The voice will change. The purpose will not. To make yourself happy and to spread the music all around. It does heal. Music has been proven to physically heal. I believe this.


  • For the closing of this interview, what do you love about jazz? Could you give any messages for singers in Japan? If you have anything to say, please let me know!!


Again , I love the freedom in jazz. The trusting in the notes. I call it The Authentic Voice. There is only one of you. You are unique, you sound like no one else. You embrace your individuality.

Be exactly who you are. This is the foundation of my style of teaching… each singer chooses his or her own songs that speak to them. I insist on knowing why… why did you choose this song?. What does it mean to you?

Be authentic. Be willing to work hard…
I will work with you on many levels…breathing,body work,inner voice,story telling, performance.


A lot of singers are so excited about your stay in Japan!! Thank you very much for your wonderful interview!!