The Bottom Line
A440 Music Group
Bassist Michael Mason forged a solid reputation as a sought-after sideman, and he makes the transition to leader on his debut album, The Bottom Line (A440). This is a very likeable, though safe, smooth-jazz offering. Manson doesn't break any new musical ground here, but the tunes are, for the most part, interesting and appealing, and Manson demonstrates considerable skill both as rhythmic support and lead melodic voice.
One of the album's strongest tunes is the rollicking, horn-accented title track, which showcases Manson's funky chops. On "Keys to My Heart" and "Angel's Serenade" Manson exhibits a flair for a big soaring ballad. He's joined on both by saxophonist Kirk Whalum, and together this well-matched pairing creates two very affecting pieces. There are a few stumbles on the album, though, namely "Just One Touch"; it's a pleasant but ephemeral tune whose melody lacks a strong, memorable hook. Overall, however, The Bottom Line presents Manson as an engaging new presence on the smooth-jazz scene.