Michael Manson - Up Front


Michael Manson is a highly gifted bass player. He already performed with Kirk Whalum, Brian Culbertson, George Duke or Oletta Adams to just name a few. Like most of the contemporary jazz artists he was on the search of a new label. Now he found his haven in NuGroove Records and presents his label debut Up Front (2008). Portions of this CD have been remastered from his previous album Just Feelin It.

 Michael explains: "Due to circumstances beyond my control, that this CD hasn't available for over a year, some of that music has been included in Up Front as a thank you to the many fans who couldn't buy that CD." The new album has a huge list of guest-musicians like Alex Al, Mel Brown, Norman Brown, Nick Colionne, Ray Fuller, Keith Henderson, Paul Jackson, George Duke, Michael Logan, and Jeff Lorber, just to keep it short.

Darren Rahn penned the opening Bring It On presenting melody maker Michael Manson in his best role as lead bassist. George Duke performs a short piano filling. On Coming Right At Ya Michael performs anew the lead bass while Alex Al is accompanying him on his bass. This song was recorded at Dave Kochanski's sound design studios. There is a great horn passage played by Stephen Berry (trombone), Kirk Whalum (sax), Larry Bowen (trumpet), Pharrez Whitted (trumpet), Ted Hosarth, Jerry Di Muzio (sax) and Jeff Lorbers' piano part is superfinished.

Steppin' Out was produced by John Blasucci and Michael Manson. Outstanding is the horn section (Darren Rahn - sax, Steve Snell - sax, Steve Barry - trombone, Larry Bowen - trumpet) and a splendid Najee on flute. She's Always There is dedicated to Lana, Michael's wife. She is always in his mind and inspired this romantic song.

End of the Road is a 1992 number-one hit recorded by Boyz II Men for the Motown label. Written and produced by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, it was a tremendous success. Michael's rendition presents a terrific Steve Cole on sax and the great choir Robin Robinson, John Colloso, Roberta Thomas, Trina Davis, Cynthia Jernigan and Tina Brown with its own dynamic.

On It's The Way She Moves Mike is performing the melody again while Kirk is playing a short sax solo. Superior the bass/ acoustic guitar duet. Michel Ripoll whose performance I could observe on Warren Hill's cruise is a great talent. I suggest to sample his solo album "Discovery Anew". The song is enriched with a great brass background somehow reaching the power of a swing orchestra.

“My wonderful wife was learning how to salsa when I was writing,” he says before owning up to the fact that they are both learning how to salsa. Breaking into laughter Manson says, “I am really, really bad at it right now. She is fantastic at it and so that is where the influences for “It’s The Way She Moves”, come from. We have been married for more than twenty years now and I still have this romantic heart towards her. I love to write something romantic that we can dance to and expresses my heart. She is the one.”

Outer Drive was originally recorded for Michael's debut album The Bottom Line. Michael re-recorded ths song again in a Chicago style. Instead of the original drum-programming Oscar Seaton performs the drums, what gives the song more vitality. Michael uses extensively the piccolo bass. “It is the range and sound of the instrument. A piccolo bass is very guitar like. There is only a subtle difference between the guitar and the piccolo bass. It has a thicker, fuller sound than a guitar would ever have." The guitar solo is performed by jazz-guitarist Nick Colionne, who just signed a record deal with Koch Records.

Still Thinking About You is featuring Norman Brown on guitar and Ray Fuller on rhythm guitar. Great guitar riffs with an awesome orchestra of horns. A first choice for smooth jazz friends. The title tune Up Front is the first of this album with a stronger emphasis on the bass. Michael showcases his slap bass quality. The dynamic propelling bass is perfectly supported by the horn section. Michael layers slap bass, tenor bass and piccolo bass to a great musical entity.

On the laid-back Way Back Then Jeff Lorber excels with his superior qualities. When quickness is not the quality factor a special exquisiteness in performance reveals musical maturity. Rick Braun gives a shot on his trumpet. Michael couldn't resist to cover Lovely Day, Bill Withers' smashing super hit from the album Menagerie (1977). This song is one of my eternal favorites, another one is "Lean On Me" and I am glad that Michael produced such a brilliant rendition. I have also to thank Kevin Whalum for his excellent vocal input.

On the reprise of End Of The Road one can listen to some spiritual words. The final Outer Drive is a continuation of the the above described version. Just to get you an imagination what you can await when Michael would perform his album life.

Michael delivers a fantastic album. This is a miracle of bass. Hurry up to catch a copy.




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  • Title: Up Front
    Artist: Michael Manson
    Year: 2008
    Length: 1:04:17
    Genre: General Jazz
    Label: nuGroove Records

    01 Bring It On [4:47]
    02 Coming Right At Ya [5:20]
    03 Steppin' Out [5:25]
    04 She's Always There (For Lana) [4:43]
    05 End Of The Road [6:28]
    06 It's The Way She Moves [5:21]
    07 Outer Drive (Chicago Style) [6:06]
    08 Still Thinking About You [5:27]
    09 Up Front [6:25]
    10 Way Back Then [4:37]
    11 Lovely Day [5:01]
    12 End Of The Road (Reprise) [1:20]
    13 Outer Drive (Reprise)` [3:16]