Rare Silk began in 1978 as a 3-part harmony vocal group, much in the style of the Boswell Sisters. Their inception coincided with the beginning of local radio station KGNU. For several months, they created a weekly 15 minute local access radio show, which allowed them to build a repertoire. They met the great Benny Goodman by opening for him at Mackey Auditorium in Boulder. Mr. Goodman immediately took to the 3 women's vocal stylings and asked them to go on tour with him. Their first gig was at the Boston Globe Jazz Festival and was live broadcast on PBS. The tour included dates at Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl and a week in Japan at the Aurex Jazz Festival. After their tour with Benny, they were joined by male vocalist Todd Buffa and began restyling their approach to a more modern 4-part harmony sound. They were soon discovered by a Polygram scout and recorded their first album, 'New Weave' in 1983. This album was nominated for 2 Grammys and reached #2 on the Billboard Jazz charts.
From Jim Meredith:
Had I been a member of the vocal group Rare Silk, I wonder if I'd have grown tired of hearing fans tell me, Hey, you remind me of the Manhattan Transfer. Perhaps such comparisons were inevitable. Judging by the Downbeat magazine annual readers' polls results, the Manhattan Transfer and Rare Silk were widely regarded as the top two vocal groups through most of the 1980's. Yet, to my ears, Rare Silk always seemed a little more intent upon establishing their clear identity as a jazz vocal group. On NEW WEAVE, the group's first record, they draw more heavily from the instrumental jazz repertoire than was the case with most of the 1980's Manhattan Transfer records. Red Clay [with Mark Murphy's lyrics], Lush Life, Sugar, Spain [with Al Jarreau's lyrics], and compositions by saxophonists Richie Cole, Gerry Niewood, and Eddie Harris are all to be found on Rare Silk's NEW WEAVE. Comparisons with Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross seem not at all inappropriate. Furthermore, several familiar jazz instrumentalists make appearances on this record: Gary Bartz, Bruce Forman, Ronnie Cuber, and the Brecker brothers.