Monday Night at the Mensa Disco – 2013

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Mensa is an international organization open to all… There is only one requirement to get in, you must have an IQ in the top 2% of the population. Piece a cake! You can do the test online, it’s fun, it’s easy! Only 30 questions. Here is a sample question.

Four years ago, Jane was twice as old as Sam. Four years on from now, Sam will be 3/4 of Jane's age. How old is Jane now?

My answer: Dead

Their Answer: 4 years ago Jane was 8, Sam was 4. In 4 years from now, Jane will be 16 and Sam will be 12.


I got 53% and ran out of time. 53%! …and I’m a percussionist! I know that must be shocking.

I can see you running to the website, so cocky and sure of yourself…anyway, go ahead, knock yourself out. (

When I was on the site doing the test I got bored and started looking around and I found this little promotional blurb: “Mensa has many events for members including leadership workshops and dances…"

Dances? Did they say dances?

So it struck us that if smart people, really smart people like to dance they must have special dance needs. Which means, there’s a niche market in music no one else is serving! So we started writing music for this exclusive group of smart asses, music that uses odd time signatures, music that is constructed in unconventional forms, music that screams “give this one a whirl Einstein !”

We were getting more and more excited about this idea, so we presented it to our record company. The marketing department wanted to know if we thought that given how the record business is these days, was it really that smart to target a CD to only 2% of the population. Well, I told them, “Smart? like I got 53% on the freakin’ test how do you expect me to answer a question like that?

Once the CD was written we wondered where our music might be played, where do smart people hang out? I mean a smart person wouldn’t book a Ball Room at the Ramada, would they? Right! There must be a Mensa Disco. And if there is a Mensa disco there must be a doorman. And if there is a doorman at the Mensa Disco he would no doubt say; “yeah, I can let you in, but I’m gonna have to see some IQ.“

Matt Zimbel
Montreal July 2013

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

The House With Leonard Cohen

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Manteca with Leonard Cohen
The House with Leonard Cohen


When I finished last nights Manteca concert at the Young Centre for Performing Arts, Lyne told me Leonard Cohen had passed away. Can one be down to earth and utterly elegant? Leonard could and it was not the suit, it was the man, his generosity of spirit, his kindness and his respect for others and his deep respect for words.

Here is a story I posted last year on my site.

U is for Ubiquitous. In 1993 my long-time friend, composer and collaborator Doug Wilde and I were co-leaders of a band called “The House”. Named thusly because we were the house band on a national CBC weekly “variety show”, as they were called in those days, hosted by Ralph Benmurgui. The producers had invited Leonard Cohen to play on the show to coincide with the release of his 9th studio album “The Future”. He was not yet touring, had just finished the recording and was nervous about playing with a house band. He agreed to do the show but wanted to play with his pre-recorded album tracks, the kiss of death for a live TV show. The producers asked me if I would write Leonard and lobby him to perform with our band by sending some recordings of the group. Easily done. I had met Leonard in 1988 while interviewing him for a BBC/ABC/CBC music show I co-hosted called “Wired”. Leonard is a master interview subject; present, measured, funny, philosophical. His vocabulary is striking, but not in a pretentious way; for example, he might call a tour, “an enterprise” or an abandoned idea would “overthrown”, to get out of something, one might “extract “ themselves…He speaks slowly, allowing himself time. to. consider. what. to. say. next*. It is a journalistic seduction – one starts to wait for the considered words of the poet with great anticipation. But unlike so many of the famous, his willingness to connect appears so genuine. During our interview, I truly believed there was no place he would rather be than talking to me.
I bragged to my journalist friends, ‘oh man, wait until you hear the interview I did with Leonard, it was incredible, he was so charming, so engaged…no question this is the best interview I have ever heard him do”.
“Really?” they would say, “he did a pretty great one on our show too”.
“ Yeah, right!”
And then I would hear the interview on their show and it would be the same interview, just as warm, just as revealing, just as exclusive feeling… but not exclusive at all, God damn it.
In my letter to Leonard that accompanied the recordings of the band, I reminded him of our previous meeting and in a couple days he got back to the producers and confirmed that he would be delighted to play with the house band and would be performing “The Future” and “Closing Time”. We had copies of the recording and were told that Leonard would bring the charts with him.
The day before he arrived I convened the band for a rehearsal and we learned Leonard’s tunes…in great detail and with a kind of live impact that the studio recording did not have. I told the band that when Leonard arrived they were to look his charts over and ask all kinds of questions, giving the impression they had never heard the tunes before….”when we get to the second chorus, does the pre-chorus repeat or do we just go right in? “Do you want the feel in the bridge to be more staccato”? “Do you want us to pick up the horn shots in the last chorus or play through?”
Leonard and his musical director were extremely gracious in answering our numerous queries and when all was set, Leonard turned to the band and said with his with his ever present elegance, “well, friend’s, shall we give this a try?”
Our drummer, Charlie Cooley, shouted out the count with über confidence; “…click, click, in, two, three, fooooouuur”! The band landed on the downbeat like a train, after the first 8 bars Leonard turned to us with a huge smile on his face….it struck me that he had not heard this song played by a live band before and he was both relieved and filled with joy.
After we performed, Leonard sat with Ralph for the interview and could not stop breathlessly talking about the band, “wow, I really appreciate your band, really grateful…they’re really great. Wow. ” Since this adventure, I have run into Leonard a few times at the grocery store, but I have never told him of our cheatin’ ways.
*When I teach public speaking I always show my students two speakers, Bill Clinton’s convention speech in 2012 for Obama for plain spoken message and Leonard Cohen in interview for pace… I tell them that during their speech, a tiny version of me is going to sit on their left shoulder and whisper in their ear: STFD, STFD, STFD…slow, the, fuck, down, slow, the,fuck, down.


Dolby Atmos Listening

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Manteca: Dolby Atmos

Mission accomplished! Bravo! Really a remarkable experience thank you everyone! This could not have been done with more precision, more craft, more warmth and kindness and more taste.

L to R

Front row: Jeff Wolpert – Engineer, Matt Zimbel – Manteca/ producer / Composer, Anthony Montuno – Dolby Atmos Mixer, Charlie Cooley – Drummer/Manteca

Second row: Colleen Allen – Sax/Flute/Manteca, Doug Wilde – keyboards/Composer/Manteca, Michael Nunan – Dolby Atmos Mixer, Walter Vanafro – Jazz FM Host

Third row: Ben Escobedo, Justin Auld, Doug Spears. All 3 from Sennheiser (Ben is Sennheiser USA, the other 2 gents from Sennheiser Canada)

Far right: Norman Verrall, HHB Canada representing Merging Technologies

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