Fun Fun – A Night in Montreal – 2008

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Fun Fun A Night in Montreal is a live CD we recorded in Montreal at the wonderful old vaudeville theatre “Le Tulipe”. This was the second night of our 2007 tour. I remember this show well, the band was so polite with each other, time for a fill?, no, please after you, I insist. Lots of “air” in this show and we like air… it’s the space in between the notes, if you can hear the air that means we’re tight! That night we were tight, we were loose.

Many thanks to my co-producer on this record the wonderful Frank Opolko, who is a great trombone player and producer. Jeff Wolpert mixed this for us. He was in one of his “no reverb” periods…the engineering on the live recording was so tight that he just was basking in the sounds. The mix turned out very separate but very dry. At mastering we put a little verb on the whole mix…not usually done that way but I think it gives the record a real impact. It was broadcast as a show on Canada Live on CBC. John Johnson, Steve McDade, Rob Gusevs, Henry Heillig, Mark Ferguson, Art Avalos, Charlie Cooley, Kelly Jefferson and me. The cover photo was taken by my father George Zimbel, it’s called Fun Fun for obvious reasons.


No Net – 1996

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This is a live album taken from various performances in 1993 and 1994 in Canada, Europe and the United States. These are board mixes, meaning that they were recorded on the live console by our front of house engineer at the time, the brilliant John Lacina. There is no remixing on this album, as it was played, so it remained.

Band members on No Net
Matt Zimbel, Henry Heillig, John Johnson, Art Avalos, Charlie Cooley, Steve McDade, Mark Ferguson, Phil Dwyer

Onward! – 2007

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Recorded in 2006 released in 2007. Our first album after the hiatus. For this record, we had trombone for the first time which was a great thing, as it seemed to lock the rhythm section to the horn section. We also used bass clarinet and alto flute, which changed the Manteca sonic palate substantially. This record was nominated for two Juno Awards, for Best Jazz Album and for Best Engineering… We did not win but you should have seen the gift bags!

Band members on Onward!
Matt Zimbel, Henry Heillig, John Johnson, Aaron Davis, Art Avalos, Charlie Cooley, Steve McDade, Kelly Jefferson, Mark Ferguson

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.