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The Bottom Line

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Album Review

The veteran jazz/funk bassist should be invited into a smooth jazz fan's CD player by virtue of the guest list here, first and foremost. Playing with heavyweights like George Duke and Kirk Whalum — whom he first played with on Whalum's The Gospel According to Jazz — Manson has made a lot of great friends in the genre; each song here is dominated by significant harmony, melody, or solo time. The hip, jumpy "Outer Drive" was co-produced by and features Brian Culbertson, and plays like a Culbertson keyboard romp, with a standout bubbly bass solo. "Keys to My Heart" is a lush, lite funk ballad with a gentle, bass-driven melody and a rich harmony line by Whalum. The silky cover of Babyface's Toni Braxton hit "Seven Whole Days" balances thoughtful bass ruminations with Steve Cole's rich tenor, which joins in quickly. Manson's tone is very much in the realm of Marcus Miller, but he rarely stretches beyond the pleasant middle ground of his genre. While that will no doubt endear him to radio, the tune "The Bottom Line" shows a great deal of breakout potential beyond the confines of radio-friendly land. He plays thick and hard, surrounded by a sea of horns (including Culbertson's trombone) and supported by Tim Gant's organ sounds, which dig deep into Manson's extensive gospel roots. This is excellent smooth jazz, but it's easy to hear that Manson is capable of so much more.


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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The Bottom Line, Michael Manson
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