The songs on bassist Michael Manson’s Up Front may seem familiar, and that’s because a few also showed up on 2006’s Just Feelin’ It, a CD that didn’t make much noise since the record label it was released on folded shortly thereafter. Manson has now remastered and remixed the older songs, including his smooth-jazz hit “Outer Drive,” which is given a funkier, live-in-concert feel. “Chicago style” is how the Windy City native puts it.
Manson, a longtime sideman just now getting his dues as a leader, has a style reminiscent of Wayman Tisdale and the Braxton Brothers, his lead running over sunny and tight melodies on radio-friendly picks such as “Bring It On” and “Coming Right at Ya.” The latter positively brims with optimism, with pianist Jeff Lorber answering Manson’s hook with one of his own. Among the top smooth stars adding their recognizable touches, in addition to Lorber, are saxophonists Najee, Steve Cole and Kirk Whalum, guitarists Norman Brown and Nick Colionne, and trumpeter Rick Braun.