Phillip Manuel says he feels fortunate not having to make the decision about what his career path would be. "I was born a singer," says Phillip. "And, I come from a long line of them, my father being the most gifted of them all." Phillip Manuel has been singing since he could speak. His fondest memories, as a child, are of his family singing together in his aunt's "little house on Constance street in New Orleans," he says. "My father was one of 13 or 14 brothers and sisters, and all of them, at least the ones I knew, had some musical gift. My mother and father were divorced, but on those weekends that I stayed with my father, invariably all of his brothers and sisters and their children, my cousins, would end up at my aunt Sedonia's house and we'd congregate in this small room just off the kitchen and sing all night. There might be 20 of us packed into this little room in my aunt's house." Manuel says the sound of all of them singing as one has stayed with him forever.
While Phillip counts many singers with inspiring him, he says his ultimate role model as a singer is his father. "I consider my self a pretty fair singer, but my father is better than 10 like me. Listening to him taught me a lot about subtlety and understatement. He also gave me a daily example of how powerful and compelling singing could be." Manuel says his fathers voice was so sweet and soulful that people would literally stop in ther tracks when he sang. "We sang at home, at the neiborhood store--I'd sing for my dad's friends, whenever. We were always singing.
If coming from a gene pool of highly talented singers wasn't enough, Phillip was fortunate to grow up on the same block with the Nevilles. "After my father, Aaron was really my first mentor," said Phillip, talking about the legendary Aaron Neville. In fact, Manuel says his first wife and Nevilles, now deceased wife, Joel, were sisters. "Aaron used to love to hear me sing Jackie Wilson's version of Danny Boy. I had a really high voice when I was younger, and I could hit all the notes."
Phillip Manuel would go on to sing in local talent shows and with local bands throughout his teen years. "I remember, I was about 14 years old, but this band I played with was working in this really hot night club, and they wanted me to sing." Phillip said his mother would accompany him when he sang in the club. "I would take my father's hat, trying to look older, and that's how I'd get in the club." Phillip recorded his first record when he was 16, called Will you marry me girl. After high school, Manuel did a four-year stint in the U.S. Air Force, before returning to New Orleans to pursue his career. Over the years, he would develop a reputation as one of New Orleans' best singers, working in clubs, concerts and many private events.
Phillip's recording career began to take off as well. Allen Toussaint began to use him as a background vocalist on projects he was working on. "One of my favorite memories is spending a good portion of the month of December working with Patti Labelle on a record that Allen Toussaint was producing. We were in the studio for a couple of weeks. The record was called Released." Phillip would go on to work with Toussaint and other artists like Fats Domino, Dr. John and more. It was also during this time that Phillip was chosen to arrange and produce a soundtrack for a motion picture being filmed in and around New Orleans. The movie was called Cane River. Phillip would record his first "serious" jazz CD in 1992. A Time for Love featured Manuel with the allstar group, the Astral Project.
In 1996, after deciding to go back to school, Manuel received a call from trumpeter and film composer Terence Blanchard. For the next year Manuel would travel the world singing in portugese in support of Terence's SONY release featuring the music of Ivan Linns. Manuel would do a second tour with Blanchard in support of another project for SONY. Phillip would go on to work with Nicholas Payton, Ellis Marsalis and a host of other jazz greats. During this period, Phillip Manuel also recorded and released Swinging in the Holidays, his Christmas CD, to rave reviews.
Phillip signed with the MAXJAZZ label out of St. Louis in 2001. He recorded the much acclaimed, Love Happened to Me disc which was released in 2002. The Washington Post praised him saying, "Phillip Manuel's energy is unyielding, his delivery magnetic."
As a performer, Phillip Manuel's reach keeps him in demand across the globe, working everything from European jazz festivals to musical theater. Phillip Manuel has had starring roles in the musicals Williams and Walker and Lulu, and sings regularly with symphony orchestras around the country. Among other pursuits, Manuel has crafted a retrospective on the life of Nat "King" Cole. "Every time I do this show it sells out," says Manuel. "People love Nat Cole and his music." Manuel says the show is being arranged for full orchestra and he's actively selling the package to "pops" orchestras across America.
With his new recording, simply called PM, Phillip Manuel has come full circle back to some very soulful R&B roots. PM is an expertly crafted group of first-rate urban grooves, held tight by Phillip's penchant for lyrics and undeniable hooks. Phillip says he plans to spend the next year travelling in support of the new record. "I've been doing this a long time, and I feel so good about this record. I can't wait to get the band on the road. It's going to be a lot of fun."