During a lengthy hospital stay for treatment of lymphoma, Cheryl Bentyne turned to the one constant in her life — music.
“For three weeks, there was silence in the ward,” says Bentyne, the sultry soprano of the jazzy four-part harmony group Manhattan Transfer. “One day, I decided to play some opera music on my MacBook. I cranked it as loud as I could and people started smiling and laughing. It became a celebration.”
Bentyne promises more joyful noise during The Summit: The Manhattan Transfer Meets Take 6 concert at the State Theatre Oct. 23. “When our groups get together, the audiences go nuts,” says the 62-year-old Bentyne, who won 10 Grammys for Manhattan Transfer. “Take 6 comes from more of a gospel place. … Their arrangements are otherworldly. We represent the whole spectrum from the top voice to the bottom voice.”
The daughter of a swing band leader, Bentyne was a waitress when she auditioned for the Manhattan Transfer, which does dynamic covers of Nat King Cole’s “Route 66” and Weather Report’s “Birdland.”
“It was hilarious,” she says. “I told everyone I was joining the group and they were like, Yeah, right. I worked the rest of the day, picked up my tips and never returned.”
When group founder Tim Hauser died in 2014, Bentyne and other singers Alan Paul and Janis Siegel had to retool.
“It was a huge adjustment,” she says. “Tim was the spirit of the group. We’re grateful to have found Trist Curless. He brings an incredible energy to the group.”
Bentyne, who hopes to release an album of Stephen Sondheim jazz interpretations next year, thinks that powerful vocals are still the heart of music.
“What people will hear at this show is the real deal — raw voices that will capture you,” she says. “You can’t do it from the outside in. It’s an inside job.” Oct. 23, State Theatre, playhousesquare.org