Nick Manson
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Nick Manson

Phoenix, Arizona, United States | INDIE | AFM

Phoenix, Arizona, United States | INDIE | AFM
Band Jazz


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"This is a recording dominated by originals from its leader which sing naturally and memorably. Manson enjoys little parabolic phrases which he repeats and then turns into lengthy runs. He has a very light, nimble touch and he puts each note exactly where he wants it. Anderson and Ivester match him with concision and a total absence of bombast.
This trio is a Trio!"
-Andrew Freund, April 1995
- Andrew Freund


"...this is an excellent tribute and easily recommended, as is another CD, Nick Manson Trio (one that mixes together originals with a few standards) that is also on Manasus Music. Both are available from"
-Scott Yanow, March 2007 - Scott Yanow

"MERCATOR - All About Jazz Magazine"

Featuring John Patitucci, Ian Froman & Andy Suzuki
Two times Emmy winning pianist Nick Manson has put out a wide variety of music on his previous releases. The first one featured bassist John Patitucci guesting on a trio format, while Jazz Impressions: Ray Charles served as a fitting tribute to the stylings of Ray Charles. His latest release, Mercator , finds Manson leading a quartet with bassist Patitucci returning for duty along with drummer Ian Froman and Los Angeles saxophonist Andy Suzuki. The tunes, which feature Manson on both acoustic and electric keyboards, are open and spacious, giving everyone a chance to stretch out without appearing self indulgent. Manson's gorgeous tone is crystal clear, with a wide palate of dynamics, as he shows with brooding chords on the title track, leading up to Suzuki's yearning tenor saxophone and Froman's pulsating cymbals. His electric piano is well featured on “Good, Clean, Fun� which has Patitucci's bass playing a game of tag with the leader. The drawn out “Red Door� opens with some dramatic and unfolding piano work from Manson, leading to Froman's buoyant drum and cymbals chiming behind, creating a multi-layered landscape. Patitucci gets some marvelous solo space with the explorative and resonant “Behind Enemy Lines� reminiscent of the early days of Weather Report. The closing “Roby� spotlights the gentle and pensive side of this multifaceted keyboardist. Mercator has great team and solo work abound.
-George Harris, All About Jazz, July 2008

- George Harris


In Mercator, pianist/keyboardist Nick Manson has gathered a group of top musicians to record a CD commemorating Roby Duke, who died last year at 51.
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. His 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.
-Larry Taylor, Jazz, September 2008 - Larry Taylor


On any given day, we can visit various web sites on the Internet and discover an infinite catalog of jazz recordings. Recently I stumbled into this recording titled MERCATOR by keyboardist Nick Manson. Like you, his name was unfamiliar. Nonetheless, two names John Patitucci [bassist] and Andy Suzuki [saxophonist] appeared on his recording along with drummer Ian Froman; moved me to further investigate the possibilities of what MERCATOR is all about musically.

First, the album title MERCATOR. At a glance, I had no idea what this title meant. So, I immediately grabbed a Webster dictionary in search of the definition. Ironically, MERCATOR pertains to maps, which must intrigue Nick Manson because on the album cover there is a detailed sketching of a world map displayed. MERCATOR or the “Mercator projection is a method of map-making in which the meridians and the parallels of latitude are straight lines, intersecting at right angles named for 16th-c Flemish mapmaker Gerhardous Mercator.� – Webster

Keyboardist Nick Manson scores five of the seven attractive compositions on MERCATOR, the opening and title cut is in loving memory of Roby Duke. As we know, dedications are usually intimate and yield only to the voice of sensitivity. This lush and powerful arrangement by Manson postures itself in the shape of a jazz standard anchored to the lucid interplay and conversation within the ensemble is simply flawless.

What I love about jazz is how seasoned players bring into play their style, and voice with unbridled symmetry and understanding of their instrument through each song. Nick and the crew encompass these infectious qualities immeasurably on “All About Lennie.�

“Good, Clean, Fun� is exactly that! Fender Rhodes enthusiasts will absolutely adore Nick’s touch on the keys as he is quite comfortable in expressing himself fluently in the language of modern jazz. Bassist John P. works his way up, down and around the neck of the acoustic upright with distinguishable precision. Ian Froman on drums is in the forefront playing with finesse and power as he effectively balances this tenacious quartet.

At the number four spot, diehard jazz fans will find themselves emerged in this lavish piece by saxophonist Andy Suzuki called “Red Door.� I love Suzuki’s rich timbre on the tenor horn. When I hear cats like him play I’m reminded why I find this irresistible sound equally exhilarating as an audible expression to his predecessors that lie deep within his own spirited voice.

“His Scally Cap,� composed by Manson is in memory of the late Victor Feldman. From the onset, drummer Ian Froman’s brushes whisper with melodically intricate execution leading you into an unassuming solo by Nick Manson on the Rhodes piano. Oh, it’s clearly apparent, the music here contains a fulfilling testament of inspiring fervor, readiness and freeness of undistorted rhythmical interplay this ensemble accurately communicates to jazz aficionados.

Kudos, to Nick Manson and friends for truly representing jazz at its best on “Mercator.� Don’t believe me, then you might want to check out “Behind Enemy Lines� penned by Manson. Admittedly, after a few spins I noticed Manson’s solos were reminiscent of multi-instrumentalist Victor Feldman.

Manson returns to the acoustic piano on the last cut “Roby,� written by bassist John Patitucci. On this subdued ending, the lament of “Roby� is defined by the musicians ability adopt quietly in dialogue among one another with passion and humility.

In my humble opinion, Nick Manson’s “Mercator� is what good music is all about! He’s a pilgrimage draped with intricate details and nuances lined within the context you hear on most distinguished jazz recordings. “Mercator� is a map to the world according to Nick Manson. This record has seven splendid compositions rousing with inspiration and almost sixty-four minutes playing time. Yep, there is more then enough music, which to me means there’s substance, depth, quality and incomparable playing by four very talented musicians lead by Nick Manson. If you love jazz, then “Mercator� is absolutely the record to buy!
- Rob Young

"MERCATOR - AllAboutJazz.Com"

Throughout his career, pianist Nick Manson has appeared in a wide variety of musical settings. He played in Lenny Kravitz's band in the early 80s, wrote Emmy-winning themes for television, and also composed a large oeuvre of commercial music. With Mercator, he returns to the jazz he grew up with, playing original compositions in a quartet format.
Manson is an excellent technician at the keyboard, and he brings to his compositions a very natural sense of melody. The songs on Mercator (the majority of which were penned by Manson) have heads that are quick to dig into. The easy, rolling melody of "All About Lennie" has an instant appeal that stays with the listener but its unobtrusive catchiness cleverly finds Manson deftly shifting meters throughout the chorus.

Some of the finest improvisation on the album comes from the underrated Andy Suzuki. The saxophonist plays most robustly when unadorned, as on "Good, Clean, Fun." The tenor solo, supported only by drums for the first two minutes of the track, feels raw and taut; an aggressive, shedding search for good sounds.

However, when Manson's Fender Rhodes bursts in, the musical environment is suddenly too full, overly rich. The trick of electric piano is to place statements carefully and rhythmically, announcing the groove without saying too much. Manson effects this balance perfectly in his solo intro to "All About Lennie." But when harmonies become too dense, as on "Good, Clean, Fun," the sound of the band risks being overwhelmed.

John Patitucci's presence on this record is a great boon to the band, and one worth waiting for. When the bassist finally solos for a lengthy introduction on "Behind Enemy Lines," it is with a burning energy and intensity that seems lacking in the ensemble portions of the song. Patitucci's solo, paired with Suzuki's improvisations, provides the greatest dynamism on the album.

Ultimately, though, Manson enchants, even if he doesn't showcase the full breadth of his chops here. The song "Roby," one of three compositions dedicated to the late Seattle musician Roby Duke on the album, begins with a tender two-note melody so simple and rich that one wishes it could go on and on. This lyric sweetness is a great strength, and one worth following in the future.

- Jay Deshpande



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Born and raised in the Seattle area, Nick remembers his early years. "My grandfather was a classical pianist so I heard classical music early on. When I was ten I switched from a home organ which I hated to the piano, having nine years of classical piano lessons. I first heard jazz when I was in the seventh grade and enjoyed seeing the high school stage band. I was really into big bands and that is how I got into jazz, listening to the music of Buddy Rich, Count Basie and Duke Ellington. I was also inspired by the Beatles and Elton John to want to make my own music." While in high school, Nick went to Stan Kenton clinics, developing his skills as a composer and an arranger. He competed at all-state festivals in Washington and remembers his piano teacher giving him a copy of Chick Corea's Light As A Feather which made a strong impression. He also picked up some very valuable playing experience in an unusual way. "My parents had a restaurant. When I was a sophomore in high school, they would hire all of the top local players from the Northwest with the condition that they would let me play piano. So I had a chance to play three nights a week as a teenager. It was an invaluable learning experience."

After high school, Nick Manson attended, on scholarship, the Berklee College Of Music. He was inspired and influenced greatly by Dave Mash and George Garzone in composition, arranging and improvisation. When he was 19 he moved to Los Angeles where he played with Lenny Kravitz's first band and attended the Dick Grove School. He became adept at using MIDI and electronics, and was one of the first to play, in concert, Yamaha's prototype of the DX7.

After moving back to Seattle, Nick became very busy doing production work while also playing jazz and creating music in a variety of settings. During his periods in Seattle and back in Los Angeles for a decade, he was quite productive, producing, arranging and performing music on CDs and for films, television and commercials. He won two Emmy Awards for his work on the Seattle television show How 'Bout That, for best piece of music in a musical segment and for best musical production in a half-hour television show. He arranged more than 1,200 titles for the Muzak corporation and currently has original music playing internationally on Muzak, DMX and Spafax. For much of a decade, Nick was a major player in the development and design of Atmosphere, Stylus, Trilogy and Stylus RMX for Spectrasonics virtual instrument plug-ins. He has owned and operated his own recording studio for the past 20 years and runs his own CD label, Manasus Music. He has been a guest lecturer and clinician at many schools (including USC, the Los Angeles Music Academy, Iolani School in Honolulu, Bremerton Community College and Edmonds Community College) and he taught music theory at the Art Institute of Seattle in the early 1990s. Currently Nick is a professor in the Jazz Studies Program at Mesa Community College. In addition, his trios and quartets have performed dozens of times for Microsoft's functions in addition to Bill Gates' wedding and 20th high school reunion.

Even during his busiest periods working in commercial music, Nick Manson played jazz. He has performed everywhere from the Kennedy Center to the Blue Note Japan, Blue Note Italy, Billboard Live Japan, Concord Jazz Festival, Jazz Port Townsend, The Baked Potato, The Jazz Bakery, The Telluride Jazz Festival, The Chandler Jazz Festival and Seattle's Jazz Alley, also touring in Europe, South American and Asia. He co-wrote the gospel standard "Jesus, Mighty Fortress" with Terry Clark and Roby Duke, and has worked with Christopher Cross, John Patitucci, Ernestine Anderson, Jackie Ryan, B.B. King, Joe Magnarelli, Eric Rasmussen, Steve Huffsteter, Kim Richmond, Ohad Talmor, Bud Shank, Bill Perkins, Plas Johnson, Jeff Kashiwa, Don Lanphere, Jay Thomas, Deniece Williams, Roby Duke and Ernie Watts among others.

In January 2007, the pianist and his wife, Nona, moved to Phoenix and bacame a Phoenix favorite nearly over night, packing the house in local jazz venues in Scottsdale and Fountain Hills. Nick still performs often in Los Angeles and continues to perform around the globe with his own unique trios and quartets and backing up famous artists when needed.

"Every time I play, I want to sound like myself and add to the legacy of the music. That is my main goal; to sound like who I am as a person and to play music that both challenges me and that people will enjoy."

Scott Yanow --April 2007