Tim Hauser, who co-founded the vocal quartet the Manhattan Transfer in 1969 and was its sole remaining original member, died Oct. 16. Details regarding the cause and place of death are not yet available, but Hauser’s passing was confirmed by the other members of the Manhattan Transfer—Alan Paul, Janis Siegel and Cheryl Bentyne—on the group’s Facebook page. That lineup had been undisturbed since 1978 when Bentyne replaced Laurel Massé, injured in a car accident. (Bentyne has been sidelined on occasion during the past few years as she’s undergone treatments for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.)
Schooled in classic jazz vocal harmony, swing and vocalese—they were often compared to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross in their early years—the group, named after a 1925 novel by John Dos Passos, was also immersed in ’50s doo-wop, bebop, pop, Latin and world music and other genres. The original lineup—Hauser, Erin Dickins, Marty Nelson, Gene Pistilli and Pat Rosali—released its debut album, Jukin’, on Capitol Records in 1971. That lineup, which leaned as much toward the rocking good-time jug band music of the Lovin’ Spoonful as to jazz, disbanded the following year and Hauser grouped with Massé, Paul and Siegel.
That lineup signed with Atlantic Records and released the self-titled Manhattan Transfer album in 1975. Reaching back to 1940s swing but also to the girl group sound of the ’60s and to New Orleans R&B, the album included guest contributions from saxophonists David Sanborn and Zoot Sims, trumpeters Randy Brecker and Jon Faddis and other jazz luminaries of the day.
The group continued to record for Atlantic until the late 1980s, and although none of their albums rose higher than number 22 on the Billboard album chart (1981’s Mecca for Moderns), they did enjoy one Top 10 single in their cover of the Ad-Libs’ “Boy From New York City,” from the same album. That year the group won Grammys in both the jazz and pop music categories. They won a Grammy in the Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group category the following year for their remake of the classic “Route 66.” Ultimately the Manhattan Transfer took home 10 Grammy awards in all.
The Manhattan Transfer was also a consistently popular concert draw and found a foothold on entertainment television.
After leaving Atlantic, the group signed with Columbia Records in 1991 and, in 2003, with Telarc. In 2009 they released The Chick Corea Songbook, a tribute to the keyboardist, on the Four Quarters label. The Manhattan Transfer was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998 and was named best vocal group in the JazzTimes readers poll on several occasions.
Born in Troy, N.Y., Dec. 12, 1941, Hauser grew up in towns on the New Jersey shore, and began his singing career in Asbury Park at age 15 with a doo-wop group called the Criterions that once performed for the legendary disc jockey Alan Freed. In college Hauser sang with other vocal outfits, including one folk aggregation that included future hitmaker Jim Croce. Hauser served in the Air Force beginning in 1964 and took jobs in advertising upon his discharge, before starting the Manhattan Transfer in 1969.
Hauser released one solo album, Love Stories, in 2007.
Hauser underwent spinal surgery in 2013 and was absent from the group’s performances for some time.