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The best goes on: Manhattan Transfer headlines Scranton Jazz Festival’s 10th anniversary

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The best goes on: Manhattan Transfer headlines Scranton Jazz Festival’s 10th anniversary

Josh McAuliffe / staff writer
Published: July 25, 2014
Marko Marcinko finds it hard to believe the Scranton Jazz Festival has been around for 10 years.

“Where does the time go?” said the veteran local musician and the festival’s longtime artistic director.

He can’t help but feel proud of the strides the festival has made in its first decade as it prepares to return for another weekend of top-notch music.

The 10th annual Scranton Jazz Festival will be held Friday through Sunday, Aug. 8 through 10, at Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel. Grammy Award-winning jazz vocal ensemble Manhattan Transfer will serve as the festival’s headliner with a performance slated for Saturday, Aug. 9, at 8 p.m.

A number of other acclaimed acts are set to appear over the course of the weekend, including jazz guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli, Chris Parker Band with saxophone great Chris Vadala, French jazz vocalist Ilona Knopfler with trumpeter Nate Birkey, Eric Mintel Group, Mike Fahn and Mary Ann McSweeney’s jazz tribute to Woody Shaw, and local bluesman Clarence Spady.

Returning favorites

“Because of the 10th anniversary, we thought we’d bring back some artists who have played the festival in the past,” said Mr. Marcinko, noting Ms. Knopfler, Mr. Mintel, Mr. Birkey and Mr. Parker all are returning artists.

As always, the festival will feature a performance by students from the Keystone College Jazz Institute. In addition to the main stage acts at the Radisson, several downtown Scranton businesses will feature live music as part of the yearly Jazz Walk, which will start at 10 p.m. Aug. 8 and 9.

And the Festival Big Band will have its usual slot closing the main-stage festivities Aug. 10 at 8 p.m. This year, the band will perform arrangements from the previous festivals, said Mr. Marcinko, noting there will be special guests.

Mr. Marcinko marvels at how far the festival has come since its humble roots as a one-day affair at Hanlon’s Grove in Nay Aug Park.

“We take a wonderful amount of pride in what we do each year,” said Mr. Marcinko, who will play with two of his bands, the Marko Marcinko Latin Jazz Quintet and Music for Models, as part of the Jazz Walk. “Everything about the festival has just gotten higher and higher. People know about this festival internationally. We’re very much recognized and in the thick of things.”

This will be the Manhattan Transfer’s first time playing the festival.

“We couldn’t be happier to have them as the major headliners,” Mr. Marcinko said. “They just have this great jazz vocal style. … Internationally, they’ve been a major group for a long time.”

Indeed, festivals make up a big part of the Manhattan Transfer’s summer schedule, said group member Janis Siegel. They’re always a lot of fun, “especially if friends of ours are playing at them,” she said.

Custom set

The group’s Scranton Jazz Festival set should prove to be an eclectic affair, Ms. Siegel said.

“To be perfectly honest, we like to get to the place first, feel it out, and then put the set together,” she said. “We’ll be doing some favorites, definitely. … Occasionally, we do have solos. And our band is just amazing, so we can do whatever we want.”

Formed in the early 1970s in New York City, Manhattan Transfer set itself apart from many of the other popular rock and pop acts of the era with a focus on intricate jazz vocal harmonies.

The group’s 1979 album, “Extensions,” featured the hit single, “Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone,” a takeoff on the theme of the classic TV show, as well as a vocal remake of Weather Report’s “Birdland” that earned the group its first two Grammy Awards.

A couple of years later, Manhattan Transfer became the first group to win Grammys in the pop and jazz categories in the same year, thanks to the songs “Boy From New York City” and “Until I Met You (Corner Pocket).” And 1985’s “Vocalese” netted the group 12 Grammy nominations.

In a business known for turnover and dissension, Manhattan Transfer has been a remarkably stable outfit. For the past 35 years, the group has featured the same four members — Ms. Siegel, Tim Hauser, Alan Paul and Cheryl Bentyne.

Through the decades, they’ve explored a number of different styles, including R&B, swing and Brazilian.

“It’s been really kind of incredible and unique in that we’ve been able to surf through all the changes in the music business,” Ms. Siegel said. “We have people who love the group all over the world. People like to hear the sound of voices and harmony.

“It’s such great music, and such fun.”

If you go

What: 10th annual Scranton Jazz Festival

When: Friday through Saturday, Aug. 8 through 10

Where: Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel for main stage acts, and various locations throughout downtown Scranton for the festival’s annual Jazz Walk

Details: Tickets are $10 for Aug. 8, $25 for Aug. 9 and $20 for Aug. 10, and can be purchased at local Gallery of Sound locations, by phone at 570-487-3954, by email at or online at

10th annual Scranton Jazz FestivalSchedule

Friday, Aug. 8

7:30 p.m. — the Eric Mintel Group

8:30 p.m. — Clarence Spady Blues Band

10 p.m. — Jazz Walk (various locations throughout downtown Scranton)

Saturday, Aug. 9

7 p.m. — Chris Parker Band featuring saxophonist Chris Vadala

8 p.m. — the Manhattan Transfer

10 p.m. — Jazz Walk (various locations throughout downtown Scranton)

Sunday, Aug. 10

11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. —

Jazz Brunch

4 p.m. — Keystone College Jazz Institute Student Combos

5 p.m. — Mike Fahn/Mary Ann McSweeney jazz tribute to Woody Shaw

6 p.m. — Bucky Pizzarelli and Ed Laub

7 p.m. — Ilona Knopfler and Nate Birkey

8 p.m. — 10th anniversary Festival Big Band

9:30 p.m. to midnight — Festival Jazz Jam

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