All Grown Up
Renee Manning's life has been quite a musical odyssey. Transitioning from a classical soprano to a soul/funk stylist (with a range comparable to Minnie Ripperton) and finally into a Jazz and Blues Contralto, her vocal journey has been phenomenal. The truth is, anything with a touch of the blues (or that depth of feeling), is well within her domain of expression. Couple Manning's musical style with that of her becoming an incredible vocal coach and educator along the way, and you have an inspirational force to be reckoned with. During Renée's "classical soprano" period, her vocal coach insisted she learn Broadway tunes and Tin Pan Alley classics, as well as, classical literature. This would serve her well. While in her "funk and soul" period, she came in touch with jazz musicians such as Ronnie Matthews, Larry Willis and Walter Booker (whose studio was a "think tank" for many, many great musicians). They would tell her "The funk and soul music is nice, but come over here and let's do a grown up tune". Ronnie, Larry and Willis always made time for her, because she knew standards and had great ears. Although Manning never thought of herself as a jazz musician it was always there; great ears, incredible time and a deep but subtle emotional range of expression. During her pregnancy with her first daughter (Amanda) her voice dropped an octave and a fifth changing her from a soprano to a contralto in a matter of months. Afraid to even speak, Renée began to study with Carmine Caruso (not the tenor!), a remarkable teacher noted primarily for his work with brass players. Thus began the transition of being a powerful, sultry contralto. Manning was invited to "sit in" with the Mel Lewis Orchestra by Mel who heard her on a funk gig. She was hired on the bandstand. Since then she has sung with big bands, orchestras and other large ensembles both here and abroad. Her vocal work on jazz operas and other demanding projects with artists as diverse as George Gruntz, Lester Bowie and Mel Lewis, have given her a reputation as a musician's singer. In 2005, Michael Bourne, disc jockey and personality on New Jersey's WBGO, invited her to participate in a jazz festival at the Mohonk Mountain Lodge. Due to an outstanding performance, Renée was invited back to Mohonk in 2006, but this time she decided to come with a smaller group (a trio with guitarist Ron Jackson and bassist Andy McKee). This opportunity set the stage for her current project "All Grown up". Playing to Manning's quieter side, it's the kind of album that makes you want to kick off your shoes, relax and enjoy a nice glass of wine. In fact, she hopes you do just that.