Zimbelism: Music by Manteca

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Manteca - Zimbelism poster

Just got back from China. I wrote, produced and directed a documentary with Jean François Gratton on my father, the humanist photographer George Zimbel. We used Manteca’s music for the film because it worked and because I was a producer, so I get to pick the music. The film had it’s Asian premiere at the Shanghai International Film Festival in June. It was my first trip to China and let me tell you those commies are living large. Even the proletariat are millionaires! They love music but there appears to be only one artist… everywhere you go… Kenny G. They had a cultural revolution and that’s all they got? …Kenny G?

Mao, Mao, Mao… that is not music, that is a human right abuse.

JLo plays with Manteca

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Manteca: Jason Logue

JLo plays with Manteca Nov. 10th. Yep, that’s right JLo, Jason Logue on Trumpet and Flugelhorn. And while he does not have 154 million Twitter followers like @Jlo, he does burn a right soulful solo, time and time again. I won’t say it looks easy, because when you watch Jason blowing, he is so concentrated and so serene, so inside the path he is on, always melodic and then full of piss and vinegar and then melodic again, to me his solo’s just feel honest. He also makes his debut as a Manteca composer on The Twelfth of Never with his wonderful tune Five Alive, which Jaymz B has advised us to do a dance mix on. It’s in 5/4 which makes it perfect for the Mensa Disco.

Fire Me Up: Our 1987 Live Album

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Our 1987 live album, “Fire Me Up” was recorded at the Bathurst Street Theatre and it’s an unusual album in a few ways, it was recorded on digital multi-track 1-inch tape, on a 32 track Mitsubishi recorder. Geek me Martha! Really? Yep! I remember at the time Sony had a multi-track digital recorder and they were in fierce competition with Mitsubishi. Sony bought a full page ad in Mix Magazine showing their recorder in the back of a Mitsubishi pickup truck with the caption: “They Make a Wonderful Truck”. But I have digressed in the most geekly manner. Our label Duke Street Records wanted us to do a live album to get away from the refinement of the studio albums and capture the excitement of the live show They told us they wanted new material on the live album, in fact, half of the material had to be new. Of course, this was all super last minute and it is remarkable to write this but the first time we ever played those songs live, they were recorded. Fire Me Up is an expression given to us by our percussionist Art Avalos. He is from LA so while we were never sure exactly what it meant, we were pretty sure it was cool. Here is an Aaron Davis tune from the record called A World Away… we were some synthy back then!

 

Mark Ferguson: The Bone In The Band

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Manteca: Mark Ferguson

Have you ever seen a plunger mute? Horn players and plumbers use them and they are, well, just like what they sound like…a toilet plunger. Horn players use them to make their tone crescendo and decrescendo, much like a guitar player might use a wah-wah pedal. Plumbers use them for, well, you know where this is going. The great thing about this instrument accessory is you don’t have to go to a music store to buy it. Our wonderful trombone, keyboard and mallet player Mark Ferguson for some reason forgets his plunger mute frequently. Which is great for us, because we get to go with him to the hardware store and watch him buy another. It’s endlessly entertaining to watch the clerk, when Mark tells him he doesn’t need the stick.

Mark has been with us since 2007 and having the Bone in the band has been a bridge between the horn section and the rhythm section, it makes the band feel sonically more connected. Mark is a powerhouse of a lyrical soloist on both Bone and Piano and on the Twelfth of Never he also plays vibes. Recently Mark has released another solo record, The Next Chapter, which is brilliant and still in the top 20 at my house a year after it’s release… mz

 

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Charlie Cooley Cheated on His Audition

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Manteca: Charlie Cooley

Charlie cheated on his audition. Well how do you cheat on an audition you might rightfully ask, I mean it’s not like passing off your neighbors urine sample for your own… you either play it brilliantly or you don’t. Stay with me here for the reveal, but first let’s back up.

Everyone was talking about this young cat from Halifax who was killing the drum chair in Long John Baldry’s band. It was 1985. Our drummer, Dave James had decided to move back to Halifax. I went to see Baldry’s band and Charlie was exactly what we were looking for… a really musical, tasteful rock drummer who listened intently and drove that band like an express train. Why would a jazz band that played a lot of salsa and samba want a rock drummer? Classified, can’t tell you that, sorry.

We asked Charlie to audition. He showed up at the audition and nailed it, all of it, the samba, the salsa, the merengue, the jazz…we hired him on the spot.

For 31 years and 9 albums Charlie has been deep in the pocket counting in the band, forever positive and always the most musically considerate person you could imagine. Time for a fill? “oh, no, please, after you, I insist!”

Two years after he joined the band we were on some scotch hazed evening on the tour bus leaving LA and he revealed to us that prior to auditioning, he had never played a samba or a salsa groove in his life, so he went and workshopped with his old teacher Dave James (see above), who was our old drummer who had all of our charts of course.

These days they indict people for less, but I always admired him for his gumption and because, well, we’ve never told him this, ever, but we weren’t going to audition anyone else. He was sentenced to drum in Manteca. End of story.

Official Portrait For Onward

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The official portrait for Onward, our 2007 release. Denise Grant who has done many beautiful portraits of us did this one at her studio in Toronto. In the age of photoshop many people thought that the apples were photoshopped in but no – we actually threw them in the air, Denise fired the shutter and most of us caught them. Getting nine people all looking good in a portrait at the same time is not easy, getting all the apples in the air at the same time while they look good is even harder.

Bottom Row: John Johnson, Matt Zimbel, Henry Heillig
Top row: Charlie Cooley, Aaron Davis, Steve McDade, Kelly Jefferson, Mark Ferguson, Art Avalos

Art Avalos: Tito Puente Injections

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Manteca: Art Avalos

 

We’d been in Manteca for more than ten years when I finally figured out how come he was so good. Oh, I’d always been a little in awe of his playing. You could lean across his groove and it would not move…he seemed locked to some metronomic God of percussion. Maybe instead of vaccines when he was growing up in California they gave him Tito Puente DNA injections. No matter what instrument he had in his hand, he always had something inspiring to say and I’d mumble to myself, “you know dude, you really should practice more”. When we would record I would taunt him, “Art play better so I can take credit for it!”, I mean really, who knows which hand drummer is playing what hand drum on which side of the stereo spectrum? In 1991 we were in Los Angles doing a concert at the Hollywood Bowl for the Playboy Jazz Festival. We went to Art’s parent’s place for a BBQ, arrived on our gigantic tour bus, which goes a long way towards announcing the homecoming of a long lost son! The Rock Star is in!

 

We were having a swim in the pool, the chicken was grilling, the home made tortillas were on the griddle, the neighbors were all wandering inside the tour bus and that’s when I realized that Art’s percussive powers came from a little box sitting on a shelf above the sink. It was a tiny, tinny plastic radio, welded to the local Salsa station. He had been listening to this box since he was crawling on the kitchen floor…so in a way he did have DNA infusions of Puente.

About Lowdown & Five Alive On The 12th

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In General
The key word in making the record was “meandering”… we wanted the arrangements to wander, to not be too “road map”, and that is why there are trumpet solo’s, tenor solos and guitar solos on one tune - something we have rarely done before…

 

On Lowdown
We are always searching, searching for new sounds and ways to use the 9 of us in different configurations… we call it the “ensemble within the ensemble”. Sometimes that takes us to new places musically, sometimes it just takes us to eBay… this time  on eBay we found a Bass Melodica, which is a small portable keyboard that one uses a mouth piece to generate what we call “bellows on a budget”… it’s like an accordion but cheaper! These bass melodicas are quite rare, the one we used came from Japan.  It sets up a swampy groove that Art and I layer hand drums over - he’s on djembe and I'm on 6 Moroccan Clay drums. Charlie (drums) does the rolling snare which glues us all together. Then we wanted to find a new way to irritate people with the musings of heavy metal (we call it “Stadium Jazz” ) so we decided to use “metal" guitar sonics and  double it with bass clarinet which sounds so much alike it’s remarkable. Bass plays the opening melody because… it’s 2016! Then Jason on trumpet and Colleen on tenor poke around for a bit until Nick on guitar shuts ‘er down fer good!

 

Five Alive was the last tune added to the line up the record and it is the only one that was written by Jason Logue our trumpeter. This is his first tune for Manteca and submitting work to the band is always a dicey proposition for writers, because as we have told writers in the past… ”we love your tune, we love playing it… it’s just not us… no can do.”  Jason proposed this tune which he originally created for a 21 piece ensemble and we loved it worked out an arrangement and reworked it and reworked it… it’s a little in the spirit of Mind Monday from the last record and the guitar solo reminds us of country music in 7/4 and then the breakdown recalls Night in Tunisia meets Caravan, it’s a great fun voyage for us as players and the listeners at the live show seem to like it… spoiler alert… it’s now in the most coveted spot in the live show - the closer!

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