Manson hails from Seattle and is now based in Phoenix. He is a talented jazz pianist and keyboardist, who is also a composer, arranger and producer Joining him on this CD are four players on whom singer/guitarist Duke had a great impact: John Patitucci on bass, Andy Suzuki on tenor and soprano saxes and Ian Froman on drums. The word "Mercator" comes from the name of the 14th Century Flemish geographer who devised a cylindrical map projection in which the meridians and parallels of latitude appear as lines crossing at right angles and in which areas appear greater farther from the equator.
As used, the title suggests Manson’s purpose is to explore new frontiers. In the notes he says, the CD "... is the result of four journeyman jazz musicians’ willingness to allow seven newly penned compositions; never performed or rehearsed, take them a across a broad, emotional sonic spectrum, without any imposed limitations." He summation is correct, all tracks give ample space for each to show his improvisation skill in various contexts accessible to the listener. Five pieces are by Manson with one each by Suzuki and Patitucci.
Standing out is Suzuki’s highly charged "Red Door" with the group at a high level of intensity, propelled by Froman’s pile-driving energy on drums, as well, featuring a stirring tenor solo by the tune's composer Suzuki.
On "Behind Enemy Lines," Patitucci’s two-and-a-half minute tour-de-force cadenza on bass segues to a vibrant beat, inviting in Suzuki’s probing tenor and Manson’s pulsating electric piano. On another plane, the title track exhibits Manson’s majestic turn on acoustic piano.
Manson’s lofty purpose for the CD has been achieved.