From 215 Records comes another great smooth jazz performance, this time from bassist Michael Manson. Manson’s Just Feelin’ It much like Alan Hewitt’s Metropolis redefines how we think of smooth jazz today. The over commercialized almost pop driven tunes masquerading as smooth jazz on many North American radio stations has sucked all the creativity out of what was once a fun genre. Well not quite all the creativity as Manson proves on this very good CD.
The track with the best grooves is "The Bassment" co-written with LaBelle Lacy. The song features some high spirited piano chops by George Duke. In all eight of the eleven tracks are original compositions. A lively "Coming Right At Ya’" demonstrates Manson’s prowess as an instrumentalist as he performs as a piccolo and tenor bassist. The horn section is spectacular and boasts some of the best blowers in the business with Kirk Whalum, Ted Hosarth and Jerry Di Muzio (all on saxophone), the incomparable Larry Bowen and Pharez Whitted (trumpets). Man I wish I could turn on the radio today and find a station that can guarantee all their music will sound as good as Michael Manson’s.
Can music have words without lyrics? You are darn right it can and Manson’s original composition "It’s The Way She Moves" provides 5:20 of enchanting dialogue from some of the best horns in music today. The incomparable Larry Bowen’s trumpet, Thomas Braxton’s saxophone and Steve Barry’s trombone are the eyes through which we watch her move across the room.
The wistful Luther Vandross song "There’s Nothing Better Than Love" is a treasure. The smooth vocals of Amiris Palmore, Trina Davis and Felicia Coleman-Evans flirt with your emotions and pull your heartstrings. Kevin Randolph’s keyboards combine with Michael Logan’s Rhodes and Jason Tyson’s organ to provide a full-bodied vintage. Later on the album Palmore, Roberta Sanders, Candy La Flora and Pastor Chris Harris join Davis and Coleman-Evans for a subtle gospel tune "Another Chance."
Just Feelin’ It has a great balance between purely instrumental tracks and soft vocals. The singers and the musicians are never in competition but always in perfect harmony. If you were not fortunate enough to be listening to smooth jazz twenty years ago then you need to hear this album because Michael Manson’s music is cut from the same fabric as the charts that first gave rise to this genre that today too often has become diluted and unrecognizable.
The lounge like "Tis So Sweet" has some beautiful arrangements by John Stoddart and the laid back chops of pianist Michael Logan find a firm foundation in Manson’s gentle bass-line. Like two old friends sharing a nightcap Logan and Manson swap melodic tales.