New York City at night, February, 1972. In a heavy snowstorm, Laurel Massé, going home after her waitress shift, hailed a cab. It stopped, she got in. The driver was wearing a cap covered with 1939 World’s Fair buttons. She asked about them. This, the first of many long conversations with Tim Hauser, was the beginning of a musical friendship that led to the founding of the award-winning vocal group, Manhattan Transfer, and the beginning of her long musical career.
For seven years, Ms. Massé toured internationally with the Transfer, recording four albums (certified gold and platinum) and the Just a Gigolo movie soundtrack, and making numerous television appearances (including Mary Tyler Moore’s 1974 television special Mary’s Incredible Dream, and The Manhattan Transfer Show on CBS TV in 1975). With her expressive voice, clear diction, and ready wit, the tall redhead left an indelible mark on the group.
But in 1978, a near-fatal automobile accident cut short her tenure with the quartet. Recovery took a long time; she returned to stage and studio in 1980 as a solo artist. Her solo recordings Alone Together and Easy Living both charted on Billboard; Again was a People magazine pick. Feather and Bone (2000) was described by The Absolute Sound as “a recording of extraordinary musical and sonic value.” That Ol’ Mercer Magic, an all-Mercer recording (with Janis Siegel of Manhattan Transfer and Lauren Kinhan of New York Voices) came out in 2009 to great critical acclaim. In 2012 she released Once in a Million Moons, a duo collaboration with pianist/arranger Tex Arnold. Ms. Massé has also guested on CDs of many other artists, including Barry Manilow, percussionist Layne Redmond, bluegrass artist Tony Trischka, and songwriter Carol Hall. Her monthly live jazz show on NPR’s WAMC featured performances by guests such as Peter Eldridge of New York Voices, and Roseanna Vitro.
Since 1997 she has been part of Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s Ashokan Music and Dance Camp as resident vocal coach in jazz, western, and swing styles, and has been a Master Instructor at The International Cabaret Conference at Yale since 2004. She has lectured and taught master classes at prestigious institutions such as Dartmouth and The Royal Academy of Music (UK), and is an adjudicator for high school and college jazz and show choir competitions. She is currently the 2014/15 STAR Artist-in-Residence at The Center at Eagle Hill, in central Massachusetts.
Ms. Massé received the prized MAC Lifetime Achievement Award (2004), and the Bistro (Best Jazz Vocalist, 2009). Ms. Massé has been both a guest soloist and a member of the professional choir at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. As an actor, she has participated in Project Rushmore’s readings of Beth Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart” (as Lenny) and Shakespeare’s “King Lear” (Cordelia), and is featured singing her own composition The Heavens Tonight (co-written with Larry Kerchner and Hubert “Tex” Arnold) in the Kairos Productions feature film, Camilla Dickinson. She is an ASCAP writer and a member of SAG/AFTRA.