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Frank Mantooth: Ladies Sing for Lovers

Lush is a dozen female vocal soloists backed by a symphony-sized orchestra plus a large chorus and a variety of instrumentalists. This was the brainchild of arranger Frank Mantooth, but while he conceived and fully orchestrated the project, he never heard its fruition: Mantooth died last year at 56.

He would likely have been proud of how his ambitious dream-to clothe a dozen vocal stylists in custom-made arrangements for tunes they selected-turned out. Inevitably, the singers’ choices are heavy on ballads. Some border on cabaret, and very little jazz phrasing can be heard. But Sunny Wilkinson, Kirsten Gustafson, Oleta Adams, Stacy Rowles and above all, rangy Diane Schuur, who prefaced “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” with its sorely neglected verse, all turn up the jazz.

There is also occasional flavoring from solo work by Kim Park on alto, tenor and flute, plus one trumpet contribution from Rowles. Congratulations to Anne Hampton Callaway for avoiding the dramatic excesses so many others wallowed in by forthrightly sandwiching “You’re Nearer” between two slices of “The Nearness of You.” As for the choir, it does nothing to enhance the solo efforts.

Originally Published