LAYERED with synthesizers, drum machines and other electronics, and sweetened by lush background vocals, Chuck Mangione's "Save Tonight for Me" is just the cure for the listener who craves another pop-jazz confection.
Although the album bears Mangione's name, and there's no mistaking his languid fluegelhorn, it's Morris (Butch) Stewart, producer and co-writer of several songs, who must share equal credit -- or, more to the point, blame. Stewart is something of a studio wiz when it comes to playing plugged-in instruments, but the arrangements here are tepid enough to make you wonder why he's running up the electric bill.
Basically, Mangione is Mangione. He unfurls melodic themes over rather sluggish dance rhythms (on the title tune and "Sweet Cheryl Lynn," for example), discreetly complements Howard Levy's harmonica on the lightweight funk track "Take It to the Church," and otherwise wistfully embroiders mundane ballads like "Secret of Love." The less said about Mangione's debut as a rapper, on "Rockin' at Red Rocks," the better. But long-time fans will no doubt find some comfort in the child-like whimsy of "T.J.'s Gingerbread House." CHUCK MANGIONE -- "Save Tonight for Me" (Columbia FC40254); appearing Saturday at Wolf Trap.