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Michael Manring and David Cullen

Updated on May 25, 2014
Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Music permeates Maren's soul, whether performing (voice, piano, drum, guitar, clarinet) or acting as a crazily enthusiastic audience member.

David and Michael

Many good songs in this collaboration between Michael Manring and David Cullen.
Many good songs in this collaboration between Michael Manring and David Cullen.

Magic in Guitar Improvisation

i had the phenomenal treat of seeing two primo guitarists (both Grammy-nominated or winning) at the top of their craft play TOGETHER at a jazz concert. They both are worth a viewing on their own. But, put them together and you come close to Paradise. (Allright, I DO like my jazz guitar music!) They are an example of why live music will never disappear and of how one plus one equals much more than two.

Jazz Festival is Perfect Venue

David and Michael played a duet gig in a jazz festival in Dave's hometown. The setting was intimate: a club that seats about 100 circled in a horseshoe arrangement around the "stage." (Actually it's dedicated floor space, which makes the performers seem more accessible than when they are up on a platform. The psychological barrier isn't there. It's like they are in a spot in your living room.) And these two fit the venue perfectly, chatting with fans between sets, or casually calling out instructions to the sound guy between numbers. They had a play list on the floor which they consulted without trying to hide it, and just had fun, fun, fun! We got fantastic music and a feeling that you were the famous "fly on the wall" in on a private jam session.


The electricity zapping between the two of them was stronger than the face-melting rays at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. What a kick it was for me to watch all the looks that passed between them . On many of the numbers, one took turns vamping a chord sequence that they laid down, while the other squirreled around with ornamentation – jazz-style. It’s a shame that they live on separate coasts. Or maybe that distance and infrequency of jamming makes it all the more precious when they do get to play together.

The duet CD available here

Michael Manring solo clip

God, they're good

They are both consummate professionals- both technical masters (how often do you see a bass player doing thirty-second notes? Oh, excuse me. I forgot to say "exclusively for several 8-measure phrases?"). Dave and Michael are both brimming over the mug with musicality and music sense. They're playful. They enjoy what they are creating on stage. Also, it is tangibly obvious that they have a deep regard for each other as people and as music-performers and music-composers. They are supportive of each other – open to try the other’s duet compositions – either with one five-minute run-through before performance time OR as a total sight-reading and ear-reacting improv experience. On top of that, Michael and David's duets are totally honest with the audience in a comfortable way. It's as if they are saying: "Hey, we’re here, we wanna try this, jazz includes improv, come along for the ride!" I can’t say which of my muscles were the more overworked: my wide-eyed grin muscles or my jaw-drop muscles.


Michael is more of a sly smiler, whereas Dave is a little more into the high- cheeked grin. Both of them were keeping an eye on each other for little shifts in body language, head nods, or mouthed silent signals. Michael is more of a small-movement guy, and Dave is the swaying, rocking back-and –forth and high-kicking mover. It was especially fun to see the little laughs when they either caught a signal or didn’t – and all the while playing their souls out on their respective instruments.

Manring – often his eyes are shut. It seems as if he is discovering his music as it occurs. He is subtle. But clear. He pours his soul out all over his guitar as slowly and tenderly as a confectioner gently dripping melted chocolate all over a petit four. It is quiet; it is careful; and there is no doubt that it is there. How lucky we audience people are to share the moment.

I do not want to give Dave Cullen short shrift. I looked for a YouTube video on him, but didn't find one. Maybe a reader will alert me if one exists. In the meantime, I did give him quite a bit of focus in a different Hub article.

Check them out

I can recommend them as soloists and as conspirators of guitar improvisation. After checking their sites, if the music appeals to you, I think you will love seeing them live.

Alas, Maren Morgan receives no remuneration, kickbacks, or even a bleepin discount on a cd for this unsolicited testimonial. Therefore, you may rest assured that it is praise of the sincerest nature. ;-)


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    • Maren Morgan M-T profile imageAUTHOR

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

      10 years ago from Pennsylvania


    • profile image


      10 years ago

      That equilibre cd is really mellow and upbeat at the same time. Good stuff.


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