With the release of his previous CD Thumpin’. Michael Manson joined the ranks of today’s premiere jazz artists.
His first singles “Outer Drive” and “Coming Right At Ya” reached the top 10 on the R&R Smooth Jazz. Bass-master Michael Manson moved from sideman to center-stage on his solo debut The Bottom Line. His passion and precision are displayed with both unrelenting power and laid-back grace on the album that, he says, “reflects the deepest expression of all I have felt making music for the last twenty 25 years.” On Michael Manson’s new CD “Straight Up”, he is credited for writing and production. For this album Michael has collected the who’s who of Smooth Jazz: Najee, Darren Rhan, Jeff Lorber, Nick Colienne, Lin Roundtree, Paul Jackson Jr., Jeff Lorber, and the legendary George Duke and many more great jazz musicians. This album is a great mix of contemporary jazz, R&B and even a little gospel.
For Michael Manson the bottom line has always been great music. Since he first picked up a guitar (not a bass), he has moved persistently from strength to strength, one association leading inevitably to another in a career that has brought him front and center with the most esteemed names in jazz, gospel, R&B, rock and pop. Manson’s uniquely lyrical voice has its roots in Chicago, Illinois. He recalls, “My grandmother and mother played piano, but no one else in the family was really involved in music. My dad had an old beat-up folk guitar that he never picked up and so my older brother and I got interested in music about the same time-I was fourteen-and started playing it. After that, we bugged my mom to buy us some instruments. She finally bought my brother a guitar and me a $25.00 bass and a $25.00 amp that we shared”.
Returning to Chicago State University, he joined the Chicago State Gospel Choir and, in Manson’s words, “things started snowballing.” One gig or association would lead to another, with Manson playing with one Gospel great after another: Tramaine Hawkins, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Jessy Dixon and James Cleveland. He even played on the Winan’s album All Out, only the first of many times he would perform with childhood musical heroes.
After his graduation from Chicago State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Music, he went on to complete a Masters in Music Performance at Northwestern University. In 1995 Manson met Steve Finkle (now Steve Cole) who was playing with Brian Culbertson. Soon Manson was playing the Chicago club circuit and touring in support of Culbertson’s CD City Lights. Manson went on to record selections on Brian’s After Hours in ’97. That same year, one of his gospel connections put him together with Kirk Whalum, and he ended up playing on the Dove and Stellar-Award nominated “The Gospel According To Jazz.” Recorded
live at the Roy Acuff theatre, it featured Whalum, George Duke and Paul Jackson Jr. “That’s how I met George Duke in ’97,” quips Manson.
Manson’s association with George Duke ultimately led to the gig of a lifetime. George, who was the musical director and a featured artist on the Montreux Jazz tour (summer of 2000), invited Manson onboard, where he shared the stage with his greatest childhood hero, Al Jarreau, along with David Sanborn, Roberta Flack and Joe Sample. Pal Kirk Whalum said with typical good humor, “After that tour you could have retired.” But Manson is just getting started. Through Kirk, he met Larry
Carlton and toured with him before and after his chart-topping Fingerprints album. Kirk also included him on his “Hymns In The Garden” album that garnered a nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album at the Grammys. Manson has shared the stage with Warner Bros. Records artists Larry Carlton, Kirk Whalum, Boney James, Rick Braun, Kenny Garret, George Duke and Kevin Mahogany. Other Warner artists featured on the album included Fourplay (with bassist Nathan East), Bob James and Gabriel Anders. Released in October of 2000 to critical acclaim, it is being followed by a DVD release in 2001. In 2010, after years of working with the best in jazz, Manson, and his wife Lana opened a non for profit music school, the Musical Arts Institute. This endeavor has now served thousands of students and currently has 375 students enrolled. They are serving the far south side area of Chicago were students and families do not have access nor resources to afford high quality music instruction.
For Michael Manson, love of musical communication, exploration, collaboration and celebration is clearly what it’s all about. This sophomore release reflects Manson’s unabated passion with joy and inspired artistry, “There are musical conversations that are intriguing and I hope the audience shares in that. But it is just great for musicians to communicate in that way. That’s the joy of music. To make great music like that every night, that’s what it’s all about.”