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MICHAEL MANRING

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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Michael Manring biography
Widely considered to be one of the most innovative and talented living bassists, Michael Manring has been performing for over 20 years and covering a wide variety of styles. Born in 1960 in Virginia, Manring was brought up in a musical family. He studied under bassist Peter Princiotto before attending Berklee College of music in the late 1970s. He left the school in 1979 due to a heavy workload with various bands, but while attending he had plenty of opportunities to play a wide variety of music. In the early 1980s, Manring toured and studied with the legendary Jaco Pastorius, and it was during this period that he really began to develop his own sound on bass. Also in the 1980s, Manring was house bassist for the Windham Hill record label, and has played with many groups and artists, including Henry Kaiser and Wadada Leo Smith's Yo Miles! group, Montreux, and collaboration on almost every Michael Hedges album. He has also played with Spastic Ink, Attention Deficit, At War With Self, and in the trio McGill/Manring/Stevens. To this day, Manring continues to play with various groups, along with maintaining a steady solo career of bass clinics and touring.

Manring's music is characterized by strong bass playing in all periods. He plays quite often with alternate tunings, unusual basses, and experimental styles of music. Manring regularly utilizes a wide variety of basses, though his main bass is the Hyperbass, which was created in association with Joseph Zon of Zon Guitars. The bass is designed specifically to allow Manring to change the tuning of one or all of his strings in an instant, through a unique bridge with levers for each string/all four and through D-tuner pegs on each of the tuning pegs of the bass. It's also unusual because of its triple-octave fretless neck. He has been known to play as many as four basses simultaneously in his compositions.

Manring's solo material has evolved over the years, with his earliest albums displaying a new age sound. His third album, Drastic Measures, displays him starting to moving away from this style, and by his next, Thonk, he had moved onto a sound entirely his own. Manring has stated that Thonk was ...the first New Age/Death metal/Fusion album. After Thonk, he released The Book of Flame in 1998 and Soliloquy in 2005. Book of Flame moved even farther away from his new age roots, and Soliloquy is a solo bass album with no overdubs or multitracking. Many of the tracks don't sound like b...
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ThonkThonk
Highstreet 1994
Audio CD$59.99
$7.13 (used)
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MICHAEL MANRING discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

MICHAEL MANRING top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 2 ratings
Unusual Weather
1986
3.00 | 1 ratings
Toward the Center of the Night
1989
2.00 | 1 ratings
Drastic Measures
1991
3.54 | 3 ratings
Thonk
1994
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Book of Flame
1998
3.65 | 3 ratings
Soliloquy
2005

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MICHAEL MANRING Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Unusual Weather by MANRING, MICHAEL album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.00 | 2 ratings

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Unusual Weather
Michael Manring Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by octopus-4
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

3 stars It was in the 80s. Prog seemed to be almost dead and internet was far to come so I turned into newage and Wyndham Hill artists for a while.

Michael Manring was one of the first that I have approached, also because a not on the album's sleeve was saying "There are no frets in this album". Also it features another big Wyndham Hill's artist that's the great guitarist Micheal Hedges, died in a car crash in 1997.

The music here is newage. It's good quality music, easy jazz, chill-out, it has all the good characteristics of the best newage things. It sometimes reminds to Pat Metheny, like the vocals on "Huge Moon", but I don't know how this excellent bassist is landed on PA.

If you like fretless bass (there was a lot of Fenders in the 80s) and jazzy chillout music this is a great album, I still listen to Manring sometimes and I still like him, but it doesn't fit into the 4 stars defintion because it says "any prog rock music collection".

It's a good album, anyway but it can't have more than three stars.

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 Soliloquy by MANRING, MICHAEL album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.65 | 3 ratings

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Soliloquy
Michael Manring Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by 1791 Overture

5 stars What strikes me most about this album is how private it is - not in the sense of dealing with intimate issues, but in the sense that its atmosphere demands solitude. As the title of the third track, Solipsism, suggests, this album is best enjoyed when the rest of the world ceases to exist. There is only the man and his bass(es), and really, what's the difference between them? Michael Manring is devoted to treating the bass as a "total instrument" - it acts as a self-contained ensemble to fill out the listening experience, and yet at the same time it's always perfectly alone, ready to awe you with the silence it leaves behind in between the notes it plays. This is an album of rich grooves and textures, rooted in New Age and jazz-fusion music, but with an avant-garde touch all their own that makes this music impossible to classify. It is tasteful, but in no sense ambient or incidental - on the contrary, the listener will be rewarded with an enthralling experience that demands his or her total attention. Manring's technical skill is obvious, and frankly somewhat astounding, but he puts it to use so creatively that even those allergic to solo albums of "shredders" and "heroes" will find much to enjoy here. Manring throws out phrases and then immediately beings decorating and recapitulating them, the bass dancing around its own pocket so effortlessly that it seems to betray the skill of two musicians simultaneously - and yet, as I said before, there is never any mistake that this is a single instrument playing. Manring is simultaneously the percussive rhythm, the melody, and the groove that cements them; his playing is truly a joy to listen to, and not to be missed by anyone even remotely interested in the bass or the creative use of instruments in general. His signature sound also includes constant changes in tuning, a liberal use of harmonics, and several interchanging picking techniques; his bass is whatever the piece wants it to be.

This is beautiful music - it fills me with the kind of excitement that makes me want to run to the nearest person and tell them about it. If you're looking for music that is not only profound, but also progressive in the truest sense of the word, look no further. Five stars.

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 Thonk by MANRING, MICHAEL album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.54 | 3 ratings

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Thonk
Michael Manring Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Tapfret
Prog Reviewer

4 stars New rage for the new age?guy

Sub-genre: Jazz/Rock Fusion (this one his a lot of metal edge)
For Fans of: Brand X, Primus, Michael Hedges, Jaco Pastorius
Vocal Style: none
Guitar Style: Distorted rock to metal.
Keyboard Style: Piano on one track
Percussion Style: Rock kit, combo of styles for 2 session drummers.
Bass Style: Primarily fretless played both picked and two-handed tap. Extended range "Hyperbass" on which Manring plays very high pitched guitar solos.
Other Instruments: Bells and odd percussion
You are not likely to enjoy this album if: the trademark sound of a popped and slapped fretless bass just isn't your thing.

Summary: At the time of this album Michael Manring was known primarily for his "New age" work with Montreaux, Michael Hedges as well as his solo works. Thoṅk is a marked shift in Manring's musical direction; not only in this album, but in his simultaneous collaborations on projects like Attention Deficit and Spastic Ink. On Thoṅk, Manring teams up with an all-star cast of old friends and classmates from a plethora of musical backgrounds. Former Primus Drummer Tim "Herb" Alexander and ex-Journey turned jazz session percussionist Steve Smith provide the battery. Ex-Testament metal guitarist Alex Skolnick (also Attention Deficit band mate) and ex-Dregs ax man Steve Morse provide guitar work.
The album opens with a bang. The first thing I noticed looking through the liner notes was that the opener, Big Fungus had no guitarist, yet there was a distinct "guitar" sound carrying the main theme. Manring plays in extended range "Hyperbass" which can provide rather high notes. The rock elements to the opener, and others like Disturbed and Cruel and Unusual, were unexplored in Manring's previous releases. Throughout the album are little surprises like that. While the ensemble pieces are very full and bring a complete package of all the guest players' tools, the most impressive and memorable moments of the album come from Manring's solo bass. He is able to apply a tapping "stick" style that allows complete bass, rhythm and melody from a single instrument. Monkey Businessman is a ruckus solo work that fits the title. The high notes obtained from harmonics combined with the rhythmic bass shuffle are unmatched in complexity of groove. The albums closer is a very emotional complete solo bass work appropriately named The Enormous Room. Once again Manring uses harmonics with sailing fretless slides to create unmatched texture: a truly beautiful way to end the album.



Final Score: This is a top 100 album in my collection and it is a pleasure to finally have it here on Prog Archives. Thoṅk has something for nearly every progressive music fan. Not a masterpiece, but a hidden gem whose flaws only add to the character. One of the keystones to Jazz/Rock fusions crossover into metal. 4 stars.

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 Soliloquy by MANRING, MICHAEL album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.65 | 3 ratings

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Soliloquy
Michael Manring Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by SaltyJon
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars After his earliest albums being mostly new age and his previous two albums standing firmly in the jazz/rock fusion field, this album is Manring's take on a solo bass album. Just one man and his bass(es), no overdubs, and a lot of basswork which makes your jaw drop and your practicing arms go limp. On the album, Michael uses no less than five basses, including the incredible Hyperbass - a 4-string bass with a 3-octave fretless neck and D-tuner pegs on every tuning peg, plus a specially designed bridge allowing him to change the tuning in other ways. Michael had the bass designed after realizing how often he changed his tuning during concerts, often many times within the same song. The extended liner notes for the album list at least 43 different tunings used over the course of the album. He doesn't like to stick with one, that's for sure.

Some people may think that a solo bass outing could get boring or repetitive. I've thought that over the years as well, but after listening to this one I've been assured that some people know how to keep the music changing throughout. With his wide variety of basses, tunings, and styles, Manring keeps a constant flow of new sounds coming out of the stereo. Sometimes he plays prepared bass, similar to the prepared piano used in some contemporary classical music. Some tracks (such as the opener and the second track) are on the funky side of things, some (Solipsism, for example) are more avant-garde, and some are melodic and beautiful (I Left America, and later Selene). All of that is covered in the first four tracks, and we see more of these styles and some new ones as the album goes on.

Michael is one of, if not THE most talented bassist on the scene right now. Having studied with Jaco Pastorius and honed his talents over the past 20+ years (his first solo recording was released in 1986, and he played with others before that) in a variety of styles (from his own new age and jazz rock/fusion releases to the group Attention Deficit to guest appearances with such groups as Spastic Ink), I'm sure there's nothing he can't play at this point. He makes great use of the tuning changes present throughout, not to mention his control of any and all harmonics possible. Having seen videos of his performances over the years, it's clear that he enjoys playing bass in general, and his liner notes for this album state that playing solo is his favorite way to go. It really shows here, as he really gets to explore all the possibilities of his basses over the course of 52 minutes. You may not be surprised to hear this, but I'd recommend the album only to those of you who are infatuated with the bass guitar. It's really a great work, and I think it sets a high mark for any aspiring solo bassist looking to make a technically brilliant, yet still emotionally moving and interesting album. Three stars for this album from me - if we were on a forum specifically dedicated to bass and bassists, it would probably be five, but as it is I feel I would be stretching it a bit too much if I gave it even four here.

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 Toward the Center of the Night by MANRING, MICHAEL album cover Studio Album, 1989
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Toward the Center of the Night
Michael Manring Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by octopus-4
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars As almost all the Wyndham Hill catalog, I think this album, more than JR/F can be defined as New Age.

I have purchased it when it was released because in that period I was into new age music and I wasn't disappointed at all.

The distinctive element of this album is that there are no guitars. All the melodies are played by bass while the other instruments gives it a jazzy background. The music is relaxing and peaceful, like new age is used to be, and this is the contact point that I see between this kind of newage and prog.

Said so, there are some highlights of playing skills in tracks like "Geometry". I don't know if there's overdubbing. If not it's one of the greatest bass solos I've ever heard.

In few words, was this a newage site I would have given it a high rating because this album is good. But honestly I don't see how it can be considered progressive and this means that the rating can't exceed the 3 stars.

I think Michael Manring has later released something more progressive, but this definition doesn't apply to this album.

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 Thonk by MANRING, MICHAEL album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.54 | 3 ratings

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Thonk
Michael Manring Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

3 stars This is the Michael Manring album to own. On this release he sheds the Windham Hill chains (although it was released on Windham Hill's subsidiary label, High Street), and plays some heavy jazz rock fusion. And he has some high powered musicians backing him up, most notably Steve Morse (The Dixie Dregs, Kansas, etc.).

Compositionally, Manring is good, but not great. But then, he had previously been creating music for people who aren't quite awake, so I guess he needs practise in that area. The songs are mostly written around his two-handed tap and slap style, similar to the way Stu Hamm plays. His fretless bass soloing sometimes gets close to the sound of Jaco Pastorius.

The bast tracks: Snakes Got Legs and Bad Hair Day.

Highly recommended for the bass fanatic.

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 Drastic Measures by MANRING, MICHAEL album cover Studio Album, 1991
2.00 | 1 ratings

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Drastic Measures
Michael Manring Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

— First review of this album —
2 stars Michael Manring could have been the successor to Jaco Pastorius. In fact, at times his bass playing sounds similar to Jaco's. But what happened? He pigeonholed himself into the new age style. He got himself signed to the Windham Hill record label, the label that was proud to create nothing more than unobtrusive musical wallpaper.

This album is yet another Windham Hill release. The majority of the songs are light (almost impossibly light) fusion pieces, with telling titles like Wide Asleep. The only interesting songs are the bass solos, where, as good as they are, I get the feeling that the Windham Hill executives were in the room, telling him to "Keep it down, We don't want to wake our listeners."

2.5 stars - rounded down

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