Over the past four decades, the voice of Janis Siegel, a nine-time Grammy winner and a seventeen-time Grammy nominee, has been an undeniable force in The Manhattan Transfer’s diverse musical catalog. Alongside her career as a founding member of this musical institution, Siegel has also sustained a solo career that has spawned more than a half dozen finely-crafted solo albums and numerous collaborative projects, amassed a large international fan base and garnered consistently high critical praise.
She launched her solo career in 1981 on Atlantic Records with the release of Experiment in White produced by Joel Dorn. Her followup solo effort, At Home, earned her a Grammy nomination in 1987 for Best Female Jazz Vocal. She collaborated with jazz pianist Fred Hersch on the 1989 effort, Short Stories, which Jazz Times ranked “among the most graceful, thoroughly heartbreaking efforts of the modern era, thanks to her rich, emotive vocals. “That same year, the New York Music Awards named her Best Female Jazz Singer. Siegel rejoined Hersch in the making of Slow Hot Wind in 1995, and The Tender Trap in 1999.
Over the years, Janis’ unmistakable voice has become one of the The Manhattan Transfer’s most recognizable trademarks. She sang lead on some of the Transfer’s biggest hits, such as “Operator,” “Chanson D’Amour,” “Twilight Zone,” “Birdland,” “The Boy from N.Y.C.” “Spice of Life”, ”Ray’s Rockhouse”, “The Shaker Song”, “Mystery”, and co-wrote and sang lead on the Grammy winning “Sassy”. She also gained a reputation as a vocal arranger by writing five of the charts for the group’s acclaimed masterwork, Vocalese, seven charts for the group’s Grammy-winning album Brasil, and won a Grammy herself in 1980 for her arrangement of “Birdland.” In 1993, she and her Manhattan Transfer colleagues received their honorary doctorates from the Berklee School of Music, and in 1999 they were among the first class of inductees into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
These days, you can find Janis in the place she loves most, the studio, producing various ventures for other artists and singing on a wide array of projects, touring with her trio, teaching at universities and high schools, and paying tribute to her idol Ella Fitzgerald in a new show called “ELLA- A Life in Song.” Her 10th solo CD, released on Palmetto Records, is called “NightSongs” and her two most recent solo collaborations are “HONEY & AIR” a Brazilian/jazz vocal adventure with her group REQUINTE TRIO, along with percussionist/singer Nanny Assis and pianist John di Martino and “SOME OTHER TIME “ a tribute to Leonard Bernstein with trombonist/singer Nils Landgren.
Siegel – who is a life-long resident and lover of Manhattan, feels that some styles are timeless and universal, regardless of prevailing trends. “I think people will always respond to emotion and to great songs sung well,” she says. “When you come down to it, people want to feel something.”