Michael Manson Interview
"What I do comes from my
heart, comes from my spirit and is dedicated to Him. It can be at a jazz
concert or anywhere. I had to come to grips with that. In fact, I even
stopped playing for a while to pray about that situation and to pray about
my commitment. I always wanted to be committed to Him but I felt that I
was not being true to the relationship because of some of the things that
I was playing and because I wanted to play jazz. I took almost a year off
and around that time was when I really made a commitment to follow His
lead, to follow His direction and to acknowledge Him in all (ways)," said
phenomenal jazz bass guitar player and composer Michael Manson before paraphrasing
a passage from Proverbs, "Acknowledge Him in all ways and He shall
direct thy paths." I just gave it over to Him and said my music is dedicated
Michael Manson has blown
away listeners, radio stations and audiences with the music he has created
for his first CD The Bottom Line and his current project Just Feelin' It
released in September of 2006 on the 215 Records label. His first single
from The Bottom Line "Outer Drive" climbed to the number ten spot on the
R&R smooth jazz charts. Mixing smooth and contemporary jazz vibes Manson's
groove oriented charts are lush and well orchestrated. With songs such
as "Coming Right At You," the Latin flavored "It's The Way She Moves,"
inspired by his wife Lana, the remake of an old hymn "Tis So Sweet" and
the gospel missive "Another Chance" Manson has found a way to connect with
listeners from diverse backgrounds.
"I think when people hear
your music they want to know where it comes from. They want to know all
about you. They kind of get a feeling from the music but I think that the
people who hear your music should know you and should know all about you.
To me music is humans sharing. It is one human to another just sharing.
If they are going to know my music, they are going to know about me and
if they are going to know Michael Manson they should know that Michael
Manson is a family man, is a married man, is a Christian man, they should
know the whole story. In that way there is a connection and I think that
is what this music thing is all about, it's being able to be connected.
If we are connected it becomes less and less about the celebrity thing
and becomes more about human sharing," said Manson.
That sense of connecting
has carried over into Manson's new arrangements for "Tis So Sweet." "My
goal was to have a really intimate, not overly boisterous setting for the
entire hymn. It has minimal instrumentation. It is two friends sitting
by a fire and talking. That was my goal," he said.
Often those in the spotlight
will remain aloof from their fans and try to avoid interacting with them
in public to protect their privacy; however, Manson has endeared himself
to his listening throng by taking the opposite tact. In describing the
fans he encounters on the jazz cruises he says, "Some of these smooth jazz
fans are just terrific people. Just to hang with them and live with them
is a great experience. As you walk around saying hi to everybody, I think
that is a great thing. They will leave the cruise and be our biggest cheerleaders.
They will spread the word about our music and so forth. I think the hang
is the greatest. If you really want privacy, you can hide in a room but
I think you should be hanging with the people and talking to the people
because they are the people who support your music. I met many great people
on this last cruise. It will be great to keep in touch with them."
Continuing to enthuse about
the cruise ship fans he said, "You have to realize that all these people
on the cruises are fans, so much so that they pay thousands of dollars
to be on the cruise to hang out with (the artists) and listen to the music.
The (way they) respond is great because nobody really comes on the cruise
just to be on the cruise. They come to be with you and hear the music.
They come to hang out with all the artists and that is why they are there.
The response is unbelievable. At a regular jazz concert or festival, some
of those people come just to hang. They just come because it is an event
and it (gives them) something to do. The people on a cruise pay a lot of
money and they wouldn't do that if they weren't a true fan. The response
is much greater on a cruise than it would be anywhere else."
A look at Manson's tour
schedule quickly reveals that he has immense popularity on both sides of
the Atlantic Ocean as he completed a tour of Holland in the late fall of
2006 and is crisscrossing the United States throughout 2007. At the time
of our conversation, he had just returned from his fifth jazz cruise this
time as a featured guest artist with Brian Culbertson.
Despite all the notoriety
and quickly approaching celebrity status Manson's message remains loud
and clear. Speaking about his original composition "Another Chance" he
said, "There is rarely a day that I miss listening to that song because
the lyric says that whatever we didn't get right the day before, God has
given us another chance today to get it right, to tell that person that
you forgot to tell that you love them. (We) get to clean up a wrong that
we did the day before. You have another chance. Until we pass away we always
have another chance."
"In the Word of God it says
that His mercies are renewed every morning so the stuff that we did yesterday
we have another chance to get it right today. I get up in the morning and
I listen to that song," he said.
"Ameris Palmore who is a
vocal arranger did all the arranging for "Another Chance" which is my favorite
song from the whole CD. She is just phenomenal."
Palmore, Felicia Coleman-Evans
and Trina Davis give spectacular vocal performances on "There's Nothing
Better Than Love" and the Bill Withers' tune "Lovely Day." Kevin Whalum
is the lead vocalist for "Lovely Day." Candy La Flora, Roberta Sanders
and Pastor Chris Harris join the trio for "Another Chance."
With his own projects and
the projects he works on for other artists Manson always requests Coleman-Evans,
Palmore and Davis for vocals. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, those
projects are likely the only time we are going to hear the trio because
Manson says they rarely sing together outside of the studio. All three
of them are praise and worship leaders at the churches they attend.
Whether he is leading his
family in their Saturday devotional or on the road, quietly praying to
God, Michael Manson is sure of one thing and that is his relationship with
the Lord. It was when he was in his mid teens that Manson first entered
into a personal relationship with Christ but like a lot of us, it was two
steps forward and two steps backwards. "It really wasn't until I was twenty
years old that my relationship became stable and I realized that the gift
of music that He has given me is always for His use," he said.
By Joe Montague, exclusive
Joe Montague is an internationally
published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory
of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18.
All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague.