GARDEN CITY - True love has settled a renowned jazz pianist on the plains of Western Kansas.
Frank Mantooth, who earned three Grammy nominations for his 1996 album "Sophisticated Lady", will begin teaching spring semester classes Monday at Garden City Community College. He'll be living in Garden city with his new wife, Carrie.
Mantooth will teach a big band class along with seminars on improvisation, jazz piano, music theory and arranging. He'll continue to travel to college and jazz festivals across the country. And in his spare time, he may take in a few gigs with a little group called the Garage Brothers or perform solo at Tom's Tavern in Garden City.
Mantooth served a one-semester residency at the college during the 1995-96 academic year. That's when he met Carrie Herrman, a middle school art teacher, on a blind date arranged by an attorney in his improv class. The two were married Oct. 19, 1996.
A native of Tulsa, Mantooth was previously based in Dallas; Colorado Springs; Vienna, Austria; DeKalb, Ill. and Chicago, where he lived since 1983.
Surprisingly, Mantooth prefers the slower pace of Garden city to that of Chicago.
"It's a little quieter and more cordial," Mantooth said.
When he first arrived in Garden City, he didn't realize he had come to stay.
"I figured on May 20 I'd be packing up the car and heading back to Chicago," he said. "I've been single for 16 years."
But Carrie changed all that.
As a part-time instructor at GCCC, Mantooth will teach jazz "basics" in all his classes - Community Big Band, Improvisation for the Masses, Jazz Piano Made Simple and Advanced Theory Bash.
In his own way, he's also bringing jazz to Western Kansas. The Garage Brothers came about as a result of a fund-raiser for the fine arts department. The package called for two hours of exclusive Mantooth cocktail piano music on a patio. So, on a blustery day in May, Mantooth teamed up with several amateurs including a high school band director, a local attorney, a cemetery caretaker, a sign painter and a mobile home park owner, to perform in the recipient's garage.
As far as travel goes, Mantooth realized he could get to all his venues as easily from Garden City as he could from Chicago. The Garden City airport has four flights a day, two to Denver and two to Kansas City.
Mantooth recently returned from the All-State Jazz Ensemble Honor Bands gathering, which involves the states of New York, South Dakota and Pennsylvania.
A new album is also in the works. Besides the three nominations for "Sophisticated Lady", Mantooth also earned six Grammy nominations for three previous albums, "Suite Tooth," "Persevere" and "Dangerous Precedent." He has also published more than 120 pieces of music, earned the ASCAP Incentive four out of five years and gained recognition in Downbeat magazine. For performances, he has teamed up with Doc Severinson, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Pete Christlieb, Buddy Morrow, Buddy Tate and the Chicago Jazz Quintet.
The new album will be recorded in February in Chicago, Mantooth said. While he's in the area, he'll be working with Hal Leonard Corporation in Milwaukee on publishing his improvisation method for fifth and sixth grade musicians.
For Garden City, Mantooth is working on a piece for big band and choir to be performed at the college's Broadway Bonanza production in May. Mantooth will also appear Feb. 24 at the jazz festival at Clifford Hope Auditorium. Expected to appear with Mantooth are vocalist Kevin Mahogany, drummer Todd Strait, bassist Bob Bowman and saxophonist Kim Park.
Reprinted with permission of The Hutchinson News