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Pianist, composer, arranger, bandleaderby Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2004 Todd S. Jenkins
Pianist, composer, arranger, educator and bandleader Frank Mantooth died of heart failure on January 30, 2004, while taking a walk. Nominated for eleven Grammy Awards during the course of his career, Mantooth was one of the most beloved fixtures of contemporary big band jazz.
Born on April 11, 1947, Mantooth came up in a musical family and studied the guitar before switching to piano in high school. At North Texas State University he was part of Ashley Alexander's acclaimed jazz program, and their friendship continued well beyond Mantooth's graduation in 1969. Alexander recognized the young man's promise, particularly as a Gil Evans-inspired arranger, and recorded three albums of Mantooth's charts for the AM-PM label before his own death in 1988.
From 1969 to 1973 Mantooth served in the U.S. Air Force Academy Falconaires as a writer and performer. He spent the next seven years living in Austria, where he began his recording career and published his first charts. Later he contracted with Hal Leonard Publishing, which has issued several of Mantooth's jazz-education books includeing "Voicings for Jazz Keyboard" and "The Best Chord Changes for the World's Greatest Standards". Mantooth composed and arranged over 165 works for big band and jazz combos. His Frank Mantooth Jazz Orchestra debuted on disc in 1987 with Suite Tooth, establishing an enduring relationship with the Sea Breeze big-band label. Other acclaimed albums by the orchestra include Persevere (1988), Dangerous Precedent (1991) and Sophisticated Lady (1995), the hideous cover art of which typified Mantooth's sense of artistic humor. His most recent album, 1999's A Miracle, featured the talents of Pete Christlieb, Diane Schuur, Kevin Mahogany, Bobby Shew and other prominent guests.
Mantooth was a respected educator, an adjunct professor at DePaul and frequent fixture of jazz workshops and camp programs around the country. He received the Homer Osborne Award for jazz education from the Wichita Jazz Festival in 1999, the same year that the Florence Crittenton Foundation honored him with their Citizen of the Year Award. His talents were commissioned by Christlieb, Schuur, Mahogany, the Airmen of Note, Louis Bellson, Doc Severinsen, Art Farmer, and several symphony orchestras. At the time of his death Mantooth had been scheduled to appear as guest director of the Texas All-State High School Jazz Ensemble in San Antonio.
Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.