In Conversation – With Matt Zimbel of Manteca, Part I

Audiences Gasping in the Silence

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
Berthold Auerbach

Manteca is a nine-piece Toronto-based jazz ensemble whose music is notable for its buoyant enthusiasm, broad spectrum of influences, smarts, and incredible listening appeal. Monday Night at the Mensa Disco, their ninth album, was released in September. Via Indiegogo, fans helped Manteca exceed its financial goal. and fans helped Manteca exceed its financial goal. Recently composer, drummer, and founding member Matt Zimbel took the time to tell Wanda Waterman about his musical influences and the joy of performance.

From the Big Apple to Green Gables

Matt Zimbel grew up in Tarrytown, New York, but when he reached his early teens the family moved to Prince Edward Island. He describes his childhood as ?a combination of a very suburban, urban, and rural upbringing.?

Matt credits his creative parents with preparing him well for the artistic life, “My parents taught me much about work and art and life;” he says, “they’ve been a tremendous influence and support.”

One of the best things they did for Matt was to provide a stimulating context for his own artistic life. “There was a lot of creativity and many interesting people around the house.”

The Canadian experience granted his life a more introspective quality. “Moving to the Island was at once invigorating and interesting. But also at times quite solitary compared to the peeps I used to run with in New York.”

Musical Influences

“I recall early on hearing the music of Dave Brubeck and the Swingle Sisters and Marian McPartland at our house. My parents also bought the Beatles? White Album and played that a lot.”

“I’ll never forget my mother coming home from substitute teaching and telling us about this incredible song all the kids were talking about at school? ‘Good Vibrations’ by the Beach Boys,” explains Matt. “I heard that song again recently after many years of never coming across it, and it really is an astonishing pop song? the arrangement, the innovation, the craft . . . amazing.”

“After I became a musician, groups like Osibisa really had an impact on me. You can hear Gino Vanelli’s 2nd and 3rd records in elements of what Manteca does, and Eddie Harris and Les McCann transformed my world.”

The Impact of a Collective Shot

“I love the joy of being on stage with Manteca and feeling the impact of a collective shot made by nine people, feeling the lighting cue and hearing the silence between the notes and sometimes even hearing the audience gasp in the quiet.”

“When the band is really tight, which is almost always and we feel grounded on stage it means that we’re playing the tunes (because sometimes they play us). Those moments are really special. They’ve happened all over the world and It’s an experience very close to my heart.”

“The thing people say most often after our shows is, ‘Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!’ That said, I’ve also seen some remarkable concerts. I love to see innovation, things I wasn’t expecting. Recently a show from the French artist Camille brought me there.”

Biggest Regret

“I left school in grade 10, but I should have left earlier; it was just getting in the way of my education.”

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