Manchester Craftsmen's Guild
There aren't many great songs Nancy Wilson hasn't recorded in her remarkable five-decade-plus career, but the 12 numbers on her newest project, R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal), are just that. This CD is the latest in a series from Pittsburgh's Manchester Craftsmen's Guild that features master stylists not only picking the compositions they perform but the accompanying musicians as well. As a result, Wilson's still gorgeous voice sparkles on vintage fare such as "An Older Man Is Like an Elegant Wine" and more contemporary efforts like "Little Green Apples" and "How About You."
Wilson's choice of collaborators sometimes proves more interesting than the selections. She joins the normally bombastic R&B vocalist Kenny Lattimore on "Why Did I Choose You," with him nicely complementing her demure, understated lead and eschewing the exaggerated mannerisms that sometimes mar his own releases. Wilson inserts herself into a three-voice harmony situation on "I Wish I'd Met You," easing from a lead role into soothing counterpoint with Kim Nazarian and Jay Ashby while guitarist Joe Negri provides rhythmic fireworks and support behind them. Her duet with Ivan Lins on "Minds of Their Own (Dois Corregos)" is equally effective, as her lush, relaxed delivery counters Lins' more dynamic phrasing and attack.
The disc's dominant mood is calm and reflective. Both Paquito D'Rivera's clari-net solo on "How About You" and
Bill Watrous' trombone contribution to "You'll See" are wonderfully played and delivered with just the right blend of discipline and distinction. The same holds true for Gary Burton's vibes playing on "That's All" and George Shearing's piano lines framing Wilson's striking statements on the finale "Blame It on My Youth."
While neither a showcase for dazzling vocal acrobatics or spectacular individual instrumental numbers, R.S.V.P. is a memorable work from a delightful singer.