When some people think of fusion, they think of a hard, aggressive approach -- perhaps Scott Henderson & Tribal Tech, perhaps early-'70s Miles Davis, perhaps Al DiMeola's first post-Return to Forever projects. All of the above are, in fact, examples of five-star fusion. But fusion doesn't have to be tough, aggressive, or forceful. The highly influential Pat Metheny has often favored a softer style of fusion, and similarly, Michael Manring identifies with fusion's gentler side on Toward the Center of the Night. Recorded in 1988, this CD was the electric bassist's second Windham Hill release. Many of the adjectives that describe Manring's previous effort, Unusual Weather, also describe Toward the Center of the Night -- words like reflective, pensive, lyrical, melodic, airy, and gentle. This album isn't a radical departure from its predecessor, and Manring's influences still include Metheny, the Yellowjackets, Jaco Pastorius, Weather Report, and various artists who have recorded for ECM. However, his writing is a bit stronger this time; one hears Manring (who produced the album and wrote all of the material) continuing to grow as a composer on thoughtful pieces like "Blue Orleans" and "The Precise Moment of Dusk." That isn't to say that Unusual Weather was a bad album, only that he continued to make creative progress on Toward the Center of the Night. In 1988, Manring's best work was still in the future -- it wasn't until the '90s that he really lived up to his enormous potential. Nonetheless, Toward the Center of the Night was definitely a creative step forward for the promising bassist/composer.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson