RSVP is the title of Nancy Wilson's new album and it's an invitation worth an affirmative response - particularly since the lady has hinted that it may be her recorded swansong. Let's hope not, although at 67 years of age with half a century in the music business behind her she has certainly earned the right to retire from the road. Wilson has made more than 60 albums during that time, and although many of them are splendid, the quality of the material and the collaborators has not always been equal to that of her voice. This time around she has opted to choose songs for which she has a special affection, but which for one reason or another she has never got around to recording. In this case, the initials RSVP stand for 'Rare Songs,Very Personal', although there are several well known standards included. 'Personal', however, they clearly are because each track has been arranged, produced and performed with the support of carefully selected personnel. Producers Jay and Marty Ashby have assembled a collection that offers continuity and variety, with a core group of musicians playing on most of the tracks, but a variety of well chosen collaborators brought in to add their unique stamp to the music. Several of these musicians she has recorded with to good effect in the past, notably Toots Thielemans - who will be appearing in Hong Kong at City Hall as part of the LCSD's Jazz Up series on November 1 - with whom she recorded Yaksa, and George Shearing with whom she enjoyed one of her finest hours on The Swingin's Mutual. Also aboard are Phil Woods, Kenny Lattimore, Joe Negri, Paquito D'Rivera, Ivan Lins, Bill Watrous and Gary Burton. Woods and Thielemans are both appropriately deployed on an Older Man is Like an Elegant Wine - a sentiment certainly true of the two musicians, as players at least. Wilson's thoughtful vocal plays call and response with both Thielemans' characteristically wistful harmonica and Woods' after midnight saxophone lines. Johnny Mercer's Day in Day Out is a reminder that Wilson is a graduate of the big band era school of singing and honed her craft on the road with the Rusty Bryant Band in the 1950s. She hasn't lost her touch in that context. The big band returns for Duke Ellington's I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart which features a fine alto solo from Phil Woods, and is followed immediately by a contrastingly intimate small group performance on Gordon Jenkins's Goodbye, which like many of the songs here tells a story. 'It is the story contained within the lyrics that gets me,' says Wilson. 'Love found, lost, betrayed, honoured and held delicately in your hands are my kind of songs.' Robert Russell's Little Green Apples is included as a tribute to a recently departed friend who loved the song, but I can't say that I'm able to. It is, however, the only example of real corn on the album, and can easily be either forgiven or skipped. You'll See is another torch song on which she brings the lyric to life, aided and abetted by Bill Watrous' stately trombone, while That's All pairs her with vibraphonist Gary Burton to shimmering effect. The album concludes, appropriately, on a duet with old friend and collaborator George Shearing on another well worn standard, Blame it on My Youth. This, obviously, is an album Wilson particularly wanted to make and it has been made possible by the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild (MCG),which funded and released it. MCG is a Pittsburgh Pennsylvania charitable organisation with a 'mission to preserve, present and promote jazz', which it does through concerts, recordings and educational programmes, and also works to bring the music to disadvantaged people and communities in the US. Proceeds from the album go back to MCG to carry on with its work, and since the CD has done well on the Billboard chart, even given the massive number of people drafted in for the sessions, it ought to be at least self-funding. It's not too much to hope that even if she has given up the road Nancy Wilson might record again, but it's unlikely that she will attempt anything on this scale. Either way, it's a career topping achievement, and well worth your time and money.