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Just Feelin' It

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Album Review

By virtue of his size, smile, stronger promotional push, and ubiquitous covers of disco-era hits, Wayman Tisdale has taken the melodic virtues of the bass and made it a viable instrument in smooth jazz. But there's always room for another, and of all the longtime sidemen releasing solo efforts in 2006, Michael Manson — a genre heavy who is best known for his long-term association with Kirk Whalum — made the best effort to emerge as a star. The energetic melodies, slick and soulful playing, and spirited horn-spiked production on his second disc make for a solid follow-up to his 2002 debut The Bottom Line, which spawned the popular radio hit "Outer Drive." Cover happy 2006 radio programmers are probably more appreciative of Manson's graceful, bluesy reading of Luther Vandross' "There's Nothing Better Than Love" and lightly grooving twist on "Lovely Day" (featuring dreamy vocals by Kevin Whalum, Kirk's brother) — but Manson blissfully shows that the art of original songwriting is still thriving in the genre. The bubbly "Coming Right at You," featuring Whalum and the piano solo expertise of Mike Logan and Jeff Lorber, is pure horn-funk delight, but the tight hook is just the start. Towards the end of the tune, Whalum chimes in with a fiery jazz solo that simply doesn't last long enough, but the point is clear — Manson as producer wants real playing beyond just what radio might find convenient. That vibe continues throughout on tunes like the title track and the Lorber-produced "Way Back When," creating an exciting retro feel that allows many of the genre's all-stars (Rick Braun, Norman Brown, et al) but never lets us forget that Manson's axe is the focal point. Amidst the smooth, there's also the wild and crazy Tower of Power-like jam which again reminds us that smooth jazz artists come to play. Overall, Just Feelin' It is an outstanding second effort that makes listeners really feel there's a bright future for smooth jazz.


Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

A native of Chicago, IL, Michael Manson took interest in the electric guitar at the age of 14. Influenced by the music of Al Jarreau and intrigued by the technique of Jarreau's bass player Abe Laboriel, Manson's love of music soon began to shift towards the bass guitar. At 15, he and a group of friends formed Togetherness, releasing an album and two singles before Manson left to join the Navy six years later. After returning to Chicago to obtain both his B.A. and Master's in Music degrees, he joined...
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Just Feelin' It, Michael Manson
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