Recorded in NYC on St. Patrick’s Day, 2008, the improvisational music included within Mercator has little to do with luck, and everything to do with musicality, patience and soulful virtuosity.
Mercator is the result of four journeyman jazz musicians’ willingness to allow seven newly penned compositions; never before performed or rehearsed, take them across a broad, emotional, sonic spectrum, without any imposed limitations.
Three of Mercator’s compositions are dedicated to the recently departed Roby Duke. The musical tour de force that was Roby had an incredible impact upon Nick, John and Andy’s quest as composers and artists who strive for excellence. Patitucci’s “Roby” is homage to the heart and soul of friendship which Roby extended to so many aspiring musicians and adoring fans during his lifetime. Andy Suzuki’s “Red Door” pays tribute to the ferocity with which Roby was capable of displaying towards musical and philosophical ideals worthy of attainment. And Nick’s composition, Mercator, addresses the intellectual and reflective side of Roby Duke, which was guarded and shared with only small number of Roby’s most trusted confidants.
The remaining four compositions within Mercator will excite the imagination as well with incredible free, improvisational cadenzas played by John and Ian, as well as solos by Nick and Andy that are wonderfully weaved into the tapestry of each intriguing tune.
Mercator is undoubtedly a recorded documentation of one of those “must have” moments in emotionally and keenly executed improvisational music.
On any given day, we can visit various web sites on the Internet and discover an infinite catalog of jazz recordings. Recently I stumped 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 record 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, The Urban Flux, September 2008
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 Review.com, September 2008
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