Performances by jazz band Mr. Direction bring 'a whole other vibe' to Manhattan Brewing Company

Michael T. Brown has been playing jazz music and instruments with his son Caleb for as long as Caleb can remember. By six, Caleb was playing with his father at church, and by 10 years old Caleb was gigging around town with his father’s band.

The band is Mr. Direction, a local group that has existed in Manhattan for roughly 20 years. For a period of time, the band was just Michael Brown and his son Caleb, in part because Brown was “burnt out on guitar players.”

However, in recent years the band connected with bass player Darryl Matsune through Dr. Wayne Goins at K-State. Goins, an old friend of Brown, let him know there was a bass player at K-State that was worth looking into. The father and son went to see Matsune play at K-State and while Michael remained skeptical of the guitar player at first, his son knew there was something special there.

“Caleb goes ‘Dad, you gotta get that guy to play with us,’” said Brown. “I’m like ‘no, he’s a guitar player.’ He’s like ‘I know but hear that sound? He’s got a sound. Dad, I can hear it.’”

It seemed that was the convincing Brown needed. The two met with Matsune after the show and felt he was a perfect fit, especially because of the bass player’s interest in playing jazz specifically with a jazz organist, which Brown does in Mr. Direction.

The band is a jazz trio, Caleb Brown on the drums, Michael Brown on the organ and Matsune on bass. On Friday, June 6, the three performed at a regular gig spot for them -- Manhattan Brewing Company. They performed a two hour set, flowing from lively captivating jazz sounds to more low, romantic, blues feels. The group brought an undeniable energy to the room. Each member appeared lost in their own moment and instrument, while simultaneously staying in sync with what the other members were doing.

The three band members all find their jazz inspirations from different places. Michael Brown discovered jazz as a child when his uncle would take him to different live gigs at bars and spots around town. Brown fell in love; he said he always just wanted more jazz. His style was influenced by old school jazz artists like Stanely Clarkey, Percy Jones, Ralph Armstrong and more.

Much like his father, Caleb was drawn to jazz by the influences in his family.

“We have a lot of family out in New York,” said Caleb. “In the car rides to New York, my earliest memories are just the stuff that he would play. All the top jazz records, he would play them, they would be ingrained in my ear.”

Apart from his father, Caleb finds his own lane when drawing inspiration from young jazz artist J.D. Beck, who is the same age as Caleb and playing at a high caliber.

Matsune has a different path from the other two in discovering his passion for jazz. The guitarist is in a masters program at K-State studying instrumental performance. He decided to study music after discovering that his favorite band was studying jazz -- he wanted to do the same. From there, he began his journey at K-State, connected with Mr. Direction, and the rest is history.

The trio’s inspirations and styles vary while also coming together to create a special sound. One that fits perfectly with the laid-back energy of Manhattan Brewing Company. Jake Voegeli, co-owner and head of sales and marketing at the brewery, said the band was exactly what they were looking for.

“It’s a whole other vibe when they’re in there playing, everything just becomes elevated,” said Voegeli. “Everyone’s just in a better mood. Live music brings out the best in people so it’s a fun atmosphere to be around. It’s exactly what we want to do with the brewery.”

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