I have been a fan of Michael Manring’s solo work for years now and have never had the chance to see him perform live, so I was very excited to see this new DVD release. I believe it is technically a Don Ross DVD release featuring Michael Manring and young solo guitarist Andy McKee. Don and Michael more or less alternate playing their own solo songs on this DVD with a few twists along the way. The program starts out with Andy playing a piece on his monstrous harp-guitar, definitely an interesting looking and sounding instrument. The first song Michael performs is a bass solo composition from his most recent release, “Soliloquy”, entitled “Greetings Earthilings”. This is classic Manring; insane tapping, perfect intonation and total technical command of the bass. It is also very nice to hear a fair amount of improvisation in the middle of the song. Michael’s second selection is a medley of songs starting with a version of “Solipsism” from his most recent C.D. release. The tune begins with Michael attaching paper clips to his strings to create a percussive, bell-like effect. He progressively removes them before going into the next section of the medley “You Send Me”. He finishes with a version of the classic jazz standard “Smile”. The one song in the program that Michael and Don perform together is “Never Got to Pernambuco”, which I assume is a Don Ross composition. It is an easy grooving song which gives Michael a chance to fill the accompanist role as well as showcase his melodic soloing chops. Next up for Michael is his dual E-Bow composition “Adhan”, which has always been a favorite of mine. It amazes me as to how easily Michael can make the bass sound like a completely different instrument, truly a musician first and a bassist second. “Selene” is another Manring composition I am very famaliar with and thoroughly enjoyed seeing performed live. The variety of tunings used is mind boggling, even more so when you consider how musically it is executed. “Helios” is supposed to be the final composition Manring does as a solo. Don Ross decides to get up and just jam along with Michael even though it is obvious he doesn’t know the song and is ignorant of the fact that it is supposed to be a solo piece. This was probably the most disappointing part of the DVD for me because “Helios” is my favorite song from Michael’s new album. I am all for the spirit of what Don was trying to do, but this was definitely not the time to be spontaneous. Don and Andy perform a duo piece “Tight Trite Night” before bringing Michael back up on stage to perform the only number that features all three musicians “Rylynn”. This is another great opportunity for Michael to showcase his sideman skills.
All in all, this is a nice DVD to check out. If you are a Michael Manring fan, I definitely suggest picking up this DVD. There is not a lot out there as far as live footage of Michael so this is definitely one to pick up. It is one thing to hear Michael’s solo compositions on recordings but seeing them performed live brings about a whole new level of amazement and wonder.
About Tim Seisser
Tim has worked with many of Chicago's finest musicians including Mark Colby, Howard Levy, Rob Parton, Frank Catalano, Corey Wilkes, Saalik Ziyad and The 5 After 7 Project, Steve Ramsdell, Nicole Mitchell, A Cor Do Brasil, The Renegades, The Rob Nicholas Band and The Delisfort Project.