Manhattan Transfer, The OffBeat of Avenues (Columbia Records)

The success of this album will have a lot to do with how it is marketed, and whatever poor sucker is stuck with that task must have already lost great clumps of hair. On the one hand, there is the typically strong horn section and tight bebop vocals that we’ve come to expect from them, combined with the jazzy intellectual hipster university poet lyrics, for an equation that equals, simply, cool. So do we push it in the jazz and fusion market? It could appeal to the mainstream jazz fan with its brassy horn-like vocal dynamics and intonations. “Blues for Pablo,” penned by Gil Evans and Jon Hendricks, is a tasty Spanish lament that segues between blues, swing and calypso. “Blue Serenade,” with a guest appearance by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, is a cool, high-steppin’ show tune with swingin’ vocals. It could appeal to the “yuppie jazz” fan who confuses any instrumental with a saxophone as being jazz. So do we try for playing time on a rock station’s jazz hour with “Sassy,” a slap-bass, electric-drum funk piece similar to Miles Davis’ latest funk-tinged fusion? On the other hand, the album is chock-full of funky hip-hop electric drums. Most of the strongest cuts are hip-hop with swing vocals on top, including the title cut and “What Goes Around Comes Around,” which deals with the connection between hip-hop and bebop. So we could push it in the soul market. Michael McDonald co-wrote “A World Apart,” and it smacks of his Doobie Brothers white soul sound, but it is tailor-made for radio play with its love fluff lyrics and a floating melody with no real hook. Several other cuts aim for the slickly produced top-40 sound. “Confide in Me” is a Donald Fagen number that would fit more appropriately on a Steely Dan album. “The Quietude,” perhaps the most unique cut, further complicates marketing strategies as a world-beat ballad with latin percussion, a sitar, a wood flute and a fetching low-sung melody with all the lure of the sirens. A diverse collection, indeed.