How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Vocalist Mimi Manners has had a varied and wending musical journey during her 17 years a as performer. She's done opera, musical comedy, rock, R&B and jazz (straight and Brazilian). She's worked the stage, TV and been on film scores. All this exposure to different forms comes together on an album appropriately titled Speechless. This album is completely wordless vocalizing, nary a word will you hear throughout the session's 48 minutes. It's not possible to imagine a sound that can be made by the human vocal chords that has not been visited by Manners. She runs the gamut from straight scatting to pure rhapsodizing. Her voice is a complete instrument as it blends with brass, strings and reeds. With the overdubbbing, she sounds at times like a one-woman Manhattan Transfer.
All the wordless singing stops are visited along the way. There's the Indian Asian on "Raga &Roll" which uses Manners' classically trained soprano. Vocalese comes into play with a trading off between voice and reeds on "Sax, La's & Audiotape" and it's done with great effect with clever use of voice-over techniques. "Triste" (sad in French) just Barbara Haffner's cello accompaniment and sounds a lot like Hector Villa Lobos' haunting Bachianas "Brasileiras No. 5", and for me, is the highlight of the album. Manners' true pitch and intonation are put to the test on an A Capella "Soeurs" once more tending toward the classical. This is another excellent track. In order to avoid an album like this becoming a disaster, the other instrumentalists have to be top flight to be able to merge their sounds with the vocalists. And that is the case here with an auspicious combination of jazz and classical musicians. Husband Rich Manners' arrangements are major factor in the success of this CD.
This album is a tour de force of vocal ingenuity and gymnastics. Manners has a voice that is at ease irrespective of the genre she is performing. Having said that, I did yearn to hear a lyric or two because lyrics convey meaning and thoughts where wordless vocalizing can't. Nonetheless, one would be hard put to come up with a better example of singing without words than this album. Recommended.
Track Listing: Brasillietta; Sax, La's & Audiotape; Reflections; Hip Hip Hop; Triste; Raga & Roll; OK Chorale; Night Jasmine; All Tangoed Up; Soeurs
Personnel: Mimi Manners - Vocals; Bobby Lewis, Rob Parton - Trumpet; Tom Garling, Mike Halpin - Trombone; Steve Rodby - Bass; Tom Radtke, Mike Shapiro, Dave Hooper - Drums; Paulinho DaCosta - Percussion; Jerry Goodman, Charlie Bishara, Joe Golan, Olga Golan, Everett Zlatoff-Mirsky, Elliott Golub - Violin; Danny Seidenberg - Viola; Randy Crenshaw - Recorders; Barbara Haffner, John Sharp, Armen Ksadjikian - Cello; Paul Mertens, Gary Meek - Soprano Sax; Mike Smith, Steve Leinheiser - Alto Sax; Jim Gailloretto, Pat Mallinger - Tenor Sax; Linda VanDyke - Bass Clarinet; Bonnie Herman, Greg Ferguson, Bob Bowker, Jon Negus, Jeff Morrow - Backup Vocals; Howard Levy - Piano/Harmonica; Bobby Shulgold - Flute