Manteca. Jazz band in the fusion style. It was formed in Toronto in 1979 by the percussionist Matt Zimbel (b Tarrytown, NY, 27 Oct 1956) and the bass guitarist Henry Heillig (b Montreal 11 Oct 1952), with Aaron Davis (keyboards), John Johnson (saxophones, flute, piccolo), and others. Taking its name from a Latin-jazz composition written in the 1940s by Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo, Manteca initially worked in Toronto clubs, making its debut at TGIF in November 1979. It appeared regularly for several years at the Festival of Friends (Hamilton, Ont) and Ontario Place, and by 1987 had become one of the leading concert attractions in Canadian jazz, touring annually. Manteca made its US debut in 1989 at the Concord Jazz Festival, Concord, Cal, and performed in 1990 at the North Sea (The Hague), Pori (Finland), and Stockholm jazz festivals.
Zimbel, Heillig, Davis, and Johnson remained constant members through the 1980s. Gordon Sheard replaced Davis in 1991. Manteca, a nonet, has been completed by a succession of trumpeters (Wayne Baker, Herb Koffman, Rick Tait, Steve McDade), saxophonists (Kirk MacDonald, Ralph Bowen, Gary Boigon, Phil Dwyer), timbales players (Earl Leader, Norman Jones, Art Avalos), and drummers (Mike Sloski, David James, Charlie Cooley).
Manteca's repertoire comprises pieces by Davis and Tait, and by the Toronto arranger and composer Jim McGrath. To its early Latin base, Manteca has added many other Third-World rhythms, at the same time incorporating the latest in synthesizer technology, creating a so-called 'pan-fusion' style that combines tribal and hi-tech influences with jazz improvisation. Its best known titles include Davis' Ruwenzori, Danceteria, Nu Nu, and Oseo, and Tait's No Heroes, Perfect Foot, and Take Me There. Album sales to 1991 exceeded an estimated 80,000; Perfect Foot was the band's most successful release to that point. Manteca, which received the 1989 Juno Award for instrumental artist of the year, stood with UZEB and Skywalk as the triumvirate of the leading Canadian fusion ensembles of the 1980s.