Rehab, therapy, parole - No doubt you’ve heard all sorts of tawdry details of Manteca’s tragic
demise after 18 years at the height of the Canadian Jazz Industry… (editors note: check style guide
to see if “ industry” and “jazz” can be used in the same sentence), well the true story
has never been told.
And so, against the good counsel of our publicists, below you will find, for the first time, the true story of Manteca’s downfall and rebirth, a story of medium celebrity, excessive gourmet food with expertly paired wines and notes played really fast against a backdrop of jazz pyro.
Embargoed until now, this is the true story of Manteca.
On the evening of October 8, 1998, the nine member World Beat Big Band Manteca took to the stage for another sold out show. After 8 albums that sold over 100,000 units around the world, international tours highlighted by performances at the Hollywood Bowl, appearances with legends Miles Davis and Weather Report, numerous awards including a Juno, and 18 years after their first show in a mid town Toronto bar, this concert was to be their last.
During those 18 years, Manteca’s music was released in the US, Germany, Africa, Malaysia and Sweden and
their extensive touring in the late 80’s and 90’s brought a universal response; widely enthusiastic audiences,
critical acclaim from the press and a music industry always somewhat confused about how to classify this
eclectic band from Canada.
By the late 90’s, despite enthusiastic reviews and the joys of playing live, leaders Matt Zimbel and Henry Heillig understood that the numbers just did not add up. Touring jazz around the world with a company of 13 musicians and crew had become too expensive. And so, reluctantly, and with the accord of all of the members (Manteca is run as an artist’s collective), the decision was made to discontinue the band. This was an emotional night as most of the members of both the band and crew had been with Manteca for more than 15 years. They loved playing together and enjoyed each other’s company. During the final show, Zimbel said to the audience, “I’m not sure whether this is the last show or pre-production for the reunion tour…”
That comment, made in jest almost ten years ago, has turned out to be prophetic. On June 12, 2007, Manteca will release their ninth record titled “Onward!” – “our best work yet,” according to leader/percussionist Matt Zimbel, and the band will make selected concert appearances until October of 2008.
Compositionally, the band has approached this record with fresh ears. With new pieces by Aaron Davis, Henry Heillig, Matt Zimbel and guest composers Gord Sheard and Doug Wilde, the focus has been on writing for the "ensemble within the ensemble," by using instruments that create a new melodic voice for the band; baritone sax, alto flute, bass clarinet, penny whistle, EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) and trombone. “We felt like a lot of the salsa, samba and funk territory of our early years was now being covered so well by others,” says Zimbel, “so we wanted to find fresh grooves and new melodic approaches that were muscular and energetic, and still grounded in the kind of Manteca stew where we all come from musically.”
“It’s hard to describe, but I think “Onward!” feels a little like Gil Evans, a little like Sergent Garcia and a little like Manteca. There’s a certain retro vibe circa 2012.”
The sessions for “Onward!” took place in Toronto in Feb of 2007 with Zimbel producing and three time Juno Award Winning engineer Jeff Wolpert at the console.
“It was remarkably comfortable to be in the studio together after all this time”, says Zimbel. “The pocket was there instantly. It just felt right the moment we counted in the first tune.” After the first keeper take, drummer Charlie Cooley, with a smile from ear to ear, screamed, “It’s been there for the past 10 years just waiting to bust out!” And of course the road stories would start the instant the red light went off… “Remember that time in Aspen?… don’t they know who we think we are?”
“Manteca was a unique playing and compositional experience for all of us and to be frank, we just miss it,” says Zimbel. “When we started in 1979, the term “world beat”, was not a common phrase, let alone a section in a record store. There was no Internet and gas was 58 cents a litre. Music, technology and the entire industry has changed tremendously in the last 28 years. We’ve all done some remarkably satisfying things musically since we disbanded ’98, but Manteca remains a one of a kind experience for all of us and we are all looking forward to seeing that sea of smiling faces when we look out from the stage.”
Manteca will launch it’s 9th release “Onward!” distributed by Fusion III with a performance headlining the opening of the Toronto Jazz Festival on June 22 at Nathan Phillips Square.
More dates to follow on July 7th and 8th at the Hillebrand Jazz Festival and a fall soft-seater tour to be announced in September.
So that’s the story… the parts concerning parole, therapy and rehab, well you’ll just have to wait for the hardcover.