Jeff Presslaff



... pleasing groove ... sharp solos ...
All About Jazz - February 14, 2015, Jack Bowers

Suite Messiah, recorded in 2012 and 2014, is the third and most recent album produced by the excellent Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra from central Canada, while Steppin' Out was recorded in 2007 to mark the orchestra's tenth anniversary. Whereas Suite Messiah is altogether seasonal, Steppin' Out salutes the Great American Songbook by renovating a dozen of its more memorable compositions. With that in mind, and as the recent holiday season is fast receding into the rear-view mirror, it seems proper to begin this assessment by surveying first the earlier of the two recordings.

The songs and charts on Steppin' Out made their debut at various concerts during the WJO's first decade, and once the band gets down to business, as it does on the three-part Oz Suite (from a 2004 performance saluting the music of Harold Arlen), the landscape is bright indeed. It is, on the other hand, hard not to deduct points from a big-band album that includes four vocals (three on the first four tracks), even if the singer in question, Jennifer Hanson, does nothing wrong and is several rungs better than average. Hanson is heard on Irving Berlin's title song, which opens the album, as well as on a pair of songs by Cole Porter ("What Is This Thing Called Love," "All Of You") and Henry Mancini's "The Thought Behind Your Smile" (nice trumpet solo on that one by Richard Boughton). If vocals don't bother you, these should prove quite agreeable.

For those who lean toward instrumentals, one of the shining lights on Steppin' Out is alto saxophonist / clarinetist and WJO co-founder Sasha Boychouk who delivers high-caliber solos on "How High the Moon / Ornithology," "The Merry Old Land of Oz," "If I Only Had a Brain," "How Deep Is the Ocean" and "Whispering (Groovin') High" (the first four on alto, the last on alto and clarinet). The WJO's resident artistic director, trumpeter Richard Gillis, is similarly impressive on "Merry Old Land of Oz" and (with virile tenor Paul Balcain) on "It Might as Well Be Spring." Balcain solos again alongside trumpeter John Pittman and pianist Will Bonness on Juan Tizol's "Caravan." Listening to the album, it's easy to see why the city of Winnipeg has embraced the orchestra and enabled it to endure and prosper for more than seventeen years.

Suite Messiah is an engaging melange of holiday music whose cynosure is the three-movement suite based on George Frideric Handel's masterwork. Preceding the suite are a pair of charming themes, "Take 5, Mary (You Deserve It)," which cleverly blends the traditional hymn "What Child Is This" with Dave Brubeck's classic "Take 5," and the first of Erin Propp's three vocals, on "Caroling, Caroling," both arranged by Jeff Presslaff. It's a safe bet that Handel has seldom sounded better, and certainly never swung harder, than on "And the Glory," "Sheep to Keep" and "Hallelujah," on each of which the WJO adopts a pleasing groove and stays with it to the end. Sharp solos courtesy of Bonness, Boughton, trombonist Presslaff, tenor Jeff Cooper and trumpeter Darren Ritchie. Movements 1 and 3 were arranged by Gillis, Movement 2 by Presslaff.

The remainder of the album is divided among familiar melodies ("Angels We Have Heard on High," "Joy to the World") and more obscure but no less agreeable anthems ("There's a Train Out for Dreamland," "Two Scandinavian Folk Songs," "Huron Carol"), closing with the late pianist Oscar Peterson's reverential "Hymn to Freedom," again arranged by Presslaff. Propp returns on "Dreamland" and "Joy to the World" (given a Caribbean flavor in Gillis' bracing chart and also featuring baritone saxophonist Ken Gold. As a singer, Propp is on a par with Hanson, articulate and self-assured. Having said that, vocals seem somehow more permissible on holiday albums. Pianist Bonness is center stage on the lively Scandinavian songs, Balcain, Gillis and bassist Gilles Fournier on the breezy "Huron Carol." Fournier, Bonness, drummer Rob Siwik and percussionist Scott Senior comprise the WJO's admirable rhythm section. In sum, two entirely disparate albums by the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra with one common denominator: you can't go wrong with either of them.

Track Listing: Steppin’ Out -- Steppin’ Out with My Baby; How High the Moon / Ornithology; The Thought Behind Your Smile; What Is This Thing Called Love; Oz Suite (Merry Old Land of Oz / Over the Rainbow / If I Only Had a Brain); All of You; It Might as Well Be Spring; How Deep Is the Ocean; Caravan; Whispering / Groovin’ High. Suite Messiah -- Take 5, Mary (You Deserve It); Caroling, Caroling; Suite Messiah (And the Glory / Sheep to Keep / Hallelujah); There’s a Train Out for Dreamland; Angels We Have Heard on High; Two Scandinavian Folk Songs; Huron Carol; Joy to the World; Hymn to Freedom.

Personnel: Steppin’ Out —Richard Gillis: artistic director, trumpet; Jeff Johnson: trumpet; Darren Ritchie: trumpet; John Pittman: trumpet; Richard Boughton: trumpet; Sasha Boychouk: alto saxophone, clarinet (2, 5, 7, 10, 12); Neil Watson: alto sax, flute; Jonathan Stevens: alto sax, flute; Jeff Cooper: tenor sax, clarinet; Paul Balcain: tenor sax, clarinet; Ken Gold: baritone sax; Jeremy Duggleby: trombone; Brad Ritson: trombone; Jeff Presslaff: trombone; D’Arcy McLean: trombone; Will Bonness: piano; Gilles Fournier: bass; Rob Siwik: drums; Rodrigo Munoz: congas; Jennifer Hanson: vocals (1, 3, 4, 8). Suite Messiah —Richard Gillis: artistic director, conductor, trumpet, flugelhorn; Jeff Johnson: trumpet, flugelhorn; Darren Ritchie: trumpet, flugelhorn; Shane Hicks: trumpet, flugelhorn; Richard Boughton: trumpet, flugelhorn; Greg Gatien: alto, soprano sax; Neil Watson: alto sax; Jonathan Stevens: alto sax; Jeff Cooper: tenor sax, clarinet; Paul Balcain: tenor sax, clarinet; Ken Gold: baritone sax, clarinet; Shannon Kristjanson: flute; Joel Green: trombone; Brad Shigeta: trombone; Jeff Presslaff: trombone; Aaron Wilson: trombone; Karin Carlson: trombone; D’Arcy McLean: trombone; Will Bonness: piano; Gilles Fournier: bass; Rob Siwik: drums; Scott Senior: percussion; Erin Propp: vocals.

Record Label: Self Produced
-- Jack Bowers - Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra: Suite Messiah / Steppin' Out (2015)


... delightfully quirky arrangements ...
Winnipeg Free Press - December 17, 2014, Chris Smith

SUITE MESSIAH - Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra (Independent)

The offering: A jazzy take on Handel's Messiah with the trademark delightfully quirky arrangements the WJO is known for, as well as some charming singing by Erin Propp in a more conventional vein. Classic chestnuts: If you like your chestnuts to sound like chestnuts, this is not for you. If you like them to maintain their integrity while adding some adventure to the musical mix, you're in the right place. Take 5 Mary (You Deserve It) is a mash-up of the Dave Brubeck jazz classic and What Child is This; the three-part Suite Messiah is a gem of performance and arrangement (imagine Handel composing with muted trumpet in mind). The three vocal numbers -- Caroling Caroling, There's a Train Out For Dreamland and Joy To the World -- are wonderful. Propp is a beautiful singer and the WJO musicians give her sensitive backing. The 11-track disc includes Huron Carole and the Oscar Peterson classic Hymn to Freedom.

**** 1/2
-- Chris Smith

... most highly recommended ...
Rotcod Zzaj - Improvijazzation - July 8, 2014, Dick Metcalf

Jeff's trombone work on this one will do more than just impress you for a moment; it will ramp itself deep into your consciousness and stay there for a long time to come.

Pieces like "November Night" are especially memorable; I'm thinking that's why it was chosen as the closer, to make sure that "cool" stays with you for the long term. "Marda Loop", though short (2:33) is energy-packed and will have you up & out of your seat ready to dance! It was the bluesy feel on "Such Sweet Sadness" that captured my vote as favorite of the ten pieces offered up: definitely cool, & definitely a new birth!

I give Jeff & his (rather extensive) crew a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an 'EQ' (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at the Cellar Live label page for this release.

-- Rotcod Zzaj - Improvijazzation Nation - July 8, 2014, Dick Metcalf

... a nice collection ...
Jazz Presenter Radio Adelaide - Adelaide, Australia, Mar. 6, 2014, Peter Kuller

A nice collection of new music in tribute to the original
The Cool is only symbolically reborn here, because it never died!

A collection of interesting pieces composed by members of the nonet.
Very good, I love it!

Thank you for sending [his] music to me.
Will certainly use his music for months to come.

-- Jazz Presenter Radio Adelaide - Adelaide, Australia, Mar. 6 2014, Peter Kuller

... stimulating package of music ...
Winnipeg Free Press - Mar. 6, 2014, Chris Smith

The Complete Rebirth of the Cool (Cellar Live)

Winnipeg musician Jeff Presslaff likes projects with a big sweep that allow him to flex his arranging and composing muscles.

This latest, inspired by the music and artistry of Miles Davis's Complete Birth of the Cool, has indeed captured the excitement of that classic recording with a talented group of Prairie musicians.

The game plan for the six composers was to write something inspired by the original album, taking into account developments in the music world. The result is 10 great tunes designed for a nonet of skilled players. Standouts include Presslaff's Measure for Measure for Measure and Will Bonness's Stream of Unconsciousness.

Rebirth is a stimulating package of music and performance, not unlike its inspiration.

Four stars

-- Winnipeg Free Press - Mar. 6 2014, Chris Smith


... beautiful arrangements ...
Winnipeg Free Press, Dec. 9 2013, Chris Smith

Martha Brooks' new jazz album is indeed a labour of love for the Winnipeg author and singer.

The 11 songs by lyricist Sammy Cahn are a remembrance of her husband, Brian, who died of brain cancer in November 2012.

"A song dropped from the portals of heaven into my dreams and got me out of bed to find out who was the lyricist -- Sammy Cahn," Brooks writes in the liner notes about the concept behind All My Tomorrows.

"That song, an anthem to lifelong love, is All The Way."

That was the spark for a concert of 16 Cahn tunes at the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival last June, which was recorded for the CD.

Brooks enlisted pianist Jeff Presslaff for the project and the beautiful arrangements you hear are his. Presslaff (who also produced the album), bassist Steve Hamilton and drummer Rob Siwik provide the sensitive accompaniment the material and Brooks' vocals required.

"The recording was one of those magical things; it sounds remarkably like a studio recording," Presslaff says.

The Cahn lyrics, a tight band, and Brooks' almost wistful delivery is a winning combination. "The love we put into this was so poignant. People really connected with it," Brooks says.

-- Winnipeg Free Press, Dec. 9 2013, Chris Smith


... a wild side ...
Something Else, Jan 1, 2010

Red Goddess: Manhattan-born, Princeton-educated pianist Jeff Presslaff has spent the last dozen years helping to make Winnipeg, Manitoba the fastest-growing jazz scene in Canada.

Although he's got a wild side to him, for his latest release Red Goddess Presslaff sticks with the straight-ahead in a trio setting. This was inspired by his coming across two young musicians who he's developed a great rapport with: bassist Julian Bradford and Scott Senior.

The music on this disc crackles from beginning to end; I particularly like how Senior's drums resonate in the mix and his extensive background in Cuban and Brazilian forms of music shine through on many tracks. Bradford plays with big ears and Presslaff himself is inventive and spunky without being overbearing. The delightful acoustic funk of "'Nother Monkish Thing" is one of many standout tracks.

Red Goddess is that rare piano trio record that is both a little unconventional and plenty accessible.

-- Something Else, Jan 1, 2010


... contrary motion ...
Randal McIlroy, Style Manitoba, Summer 2009

Trombonist, arranger and teacher Jeff Presslaff trusts to his ‘other’ instrument, piano, for his first recording under his own name, and while there is no need at all to qualify the results as, say, “composer’s piano,” Red Goddess is not about virtuosity so much as it is about craggily compelling writing and trio interaction, with ample breathing space among the shadows.

Beauty gets more than an occasional look in, whether the gorgeous waltz of “Secrets” or the feeling title track, where the light scatters like random diamonds on velvet, but more attention is compelled by the likes of “Two-Way Rays,” with Julian Bradford’s throbbing bass and Scott Senior’s cymbal washes and subterranean drumming holding the suspense, or the wry study in contrary motion that is “Summer Somewhere (One)”

-- Randal McIlroy, Style Manitoba, Summer 2009

... clear passion ...
Rotcod Zzaj, Improvijazzation Nation issue #92

Some very pleasant original piano compositions from Jeff - he's joined by Julian Bradford's bass & drums from Scott Senior.

The beauty of Jeff's tunes is that while they clearly express the "spirit" of jazz (in all it's glory), they aren't (just) "thinking man's jazz"... in other words, they vibrate with a clear passion for the playing of music that is at times shaded in dark tones (he plays some beautiful chords), but always resolves into the better qualities on the human side of things.

This is, in fact, one of the tightest trio efforts I've heard (yet) this year... they never miss a beat together, & (literally) shine on pieces like (my favorite) "'Nother Monkish Thing" - each of the players had something clear to say on this one, but it's definitely got the "circles within squares" quality that the Monk name inspires... Jeff's chord work also serves a wonderful rhythm counterpoint to both bass & drums on that track. If you're looking for something a bit more playful, you'll like the title track... just as solid rhythmically, but with a far deeper shade of "introspective" to it.

I'm very impressed with the talent quotient on this album, & expect we will all be hearing much more from Jeff & crew in the months & years to come. I give this one a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all who love jazz with a trio flavor.

-- Rotcod Zzaj, Improvijazzation Nation issue #92

... nice bed of beats ...
Kyle O'Brien, Jazzscene (Portland, OR) June 2009

Almost guaranteed that nobody in the Northwest thinks of Winnipeg as a jazz hotbed, but that’s where pianist Presslaff has settled and made a name for himself after spending time in New York with notables like Benny Carter, Howard Levy and Bill Barron.

With Julian Bradford on bass and Scott Senior on drums, he makes an interesting modern jazz disc. The compositions are often meditative, sometimes intense and occasionally thick for a trio. But Presslaff is an impressive player, using chords to lay an often darker mood, as on the title track, which features an extended solo by Bradford as Senior lays behind the beat.

Senior, an accomplished conguero, brings polyrhythms to the trio, rounding out the sound and often sounding like a drummer and a percussionist rolled into one. His funky vibe on “‘Nother Monkish Thing” gives the close harmonies of the head a nice bed of beats. If this is what Winnipeg jazz is like, perhaps it’s time to venture to the cold north for a listen.

-- Kyle O'Brien, Jazzscene (Portland, OR) June 2009

... crystal clear ...
Borderland Magazine (UK) June 2009

The piano trio format has always been a very popular one throughout the history of jazz, and it has been the launchpad for many musical stars.

And I think Red Goddess by the Jeff Presslaff Trio could be the calling card for potentially a new one. The album consists of ten Presslaff compositions, falling somewhere between mid-tempo, mellow and with a hint of urban blues in there too, so ideal for late night listening or perhaps the car stereo, or perhaps the iPod for more intimate listening.

The music on this CD is certainly intimate, closely recorded and crystal clear so that you can study the playing, if inclined that way. Along with the pianist, Julian Bradford is on acoustic bass and Scott Senior on drums.

The music on this album focuses on Presslaff's adulthood experiences and contains evocative titles such as: Summer Somewhere, Secrets, 2 Blue 2B, Having Met Ms Jones, Two Way Rays. Red Goddess is certainly a very listenable album and it should appeal to the piano fans.

-- Borderland Magazine (UK) June 2009

... magic in the flesh ...
John Hand, The Run-Off Groove #235 April 28, 2009

Jeff Presslaff is a pianist that knows his music and his capabilities inside and out, and yet knows that there is so much to explore that you can never exhaust one's self if you look forward. Looking forward is the name of the game on his album, Red Goddess (Uncontrollable), which puts him in a trio setting with drummer Scott Senior and bassist Julian Bradford.

Some will say that when you put someone in a trio setting, some kind of magic happens. Then again, listen to any extraordinary jazz played by capable musicians and you will be able to see magic in the flesh, and this is most certainly the case with this album.

Presslaff plays in a way that you can’t help but smile as you hear it, and as he communicates with Bradford and Senior you can tell that they’re smiling too.

-- John Hand, The Run-Off Groove #235 April 28, 2009

... absolutely right on ...
Chris Spector, Midwest Record April 9, 2009


Absolutely right on jazz piano trio by a former New Yorker determined to make a jazz scene in Canada. Solid date that covers several modes and attitudes, anyone looking for a nice, solid mainstream date that has some rough edges will find this to be a real find. Well done.

-- Chris Spector, Midwest Record April 9, 2009

... musical camaraderie ...
Steve Kirby, dig! Magazine March/April 2009

I've known Jeff Presslaff for six years, and I've heard him in many different playing situations. I think with Red Goddess, we have my favourite way to appreciate Presslaff's artistry: he's leading a piano trio through a collection of his originals, and that gives us a chance to really hear his musical personality.

Jeff is a multi-faceted musician who writes and arranges, and plays both piano and trombone. In this recording, we get a good illustration of his writing and his piano work. Jeff is joined by Julian Bradford, an up-and-coming Winnipeg bass player with a great sound. Scott Senior, who brings a lot of experience as a percussionist to the drum kit, rounds out the trio. The three show a great deal of ease and musical camaraderie as they move through unconventional and often soft-spoken melodic constructions, while exploring quirky harmonic schemes. The structures are open enough that the three players can really talk to each other, and the conversation is engaging.

In Red Goddess, I hear echoes of The Bad Plus, another adventurous trio who challenge the adequacy of the term jazz. If you're looking for an Oscar Peterson, McCoy Tyner or Bud Powell sound, you're not going to find it here. But if you're looking for intriguing, contemplative, inquisitive trio music, this is a good bet.

-- Steve Kirby, dig! Magazine March/April 2009

... beautiful solo ...
Chris Smith, Winnipeg Free Press March 16, 2009

The Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra with Curtis Fuller

The only tune Fuller performed on that wasn't his own was the Kenny Dorham piece, Minor's Holiday, which saw trombonist Jeff Presslaff play a beautiful solo that nearly matched the guest of honour's work.

-- Chris Smith, Winnipeg Free Press March 16, 2009

... effervescent sparks ...
John Kendle, Uptown Magazine January 1, 2009

Red Goddess

Trombonist/pianist Jeff Presslaff moved here [Winnipeg] from the States in 1997 and quickly became one of the more colourful additions to the local jazz scene.

On this Trio disc, Presslaff focuses on piano compositions that span his adulthood, and relies on young bassist Julian Bradford and former Duhks percussionist Scott Senior to push and prod him into the effervescent sparks that shine from each of these tunes, which are mainly deconstructed blues outings that rely on their rhythmic hearts to maintain their structures. This won't be the easiest jazz album you'll ever listen to, but if you meet its challenge it will be satisfying, again and again.

-- John Kendle, Uptown Magazine January 1, 2009


... significant freedom ...
Michael Wolch, Winnipeg Free Press December 13, 2008

Red Goddess (Uncontrollable Records)

After over 25 years in the music industry, local trombone player and pianist Jeff Presslaff is finally releasing his first piano trio recording. Joined by Julian Bradford (bass) and Scott Senior (drums), Presslaff gets behind the piano for 10 original compositions, some of which have their genesis nearly 20 years ago.

The overall mood of the CD is mid-tempo to mellow and meditative, with Presslaff setting the pace and giving both Bradford and Senior significant freedom and solo space to breathe life into the pieces. There are no piano pyrotechnics here or finger-popping swing numbers, but Presslaff places a lot of emphasis on the composition of each song. His influences can be heard throughout this CD, and they range from the classic jazz artists Bill Evans (Red Goddess) and Monk ('Nother Monkish Thing), to hints of Latin (Having Met Ms. Jones), and Middle Eastern (Summer Somewhere One).

The trio has only been playing together a short time, but they have already planted a seed that will surely blossom given more opportunity and nurturing.

-- Michael Wolch, Winnipeg Free Press December 13, 2008

... dramatic timing ...
John Kendle, Uptown Magazine August 28, 2008

small girl
Big Banana
(small girl Records)

On her second album, Aliza Amihude's teamed up with the likes of pianist/producer Jeff Presslaff, bassist Gilles Fournier and drummers Daniel Roy and Kelly Marques to create an ironically self-aware collection of not-quite-torch-songs featuring off-the-wall lyrics set to impressively musical backing tracks.

The cumulative effect is not unlike a bizarro version of Sesame Street, as Amihude sings about eating properly (I Love Me), herself and her tribulations (Small Girl) and deconstructionist theory (The Perspring Song), among other things. At times she sounds like a cross between Lene Lovich and Nina Hagen, but she's never shrill nor overwrought and her ace band provides just the right sense of dramatic timing.

-- John Kendle, Uptown Magazine August 28, 2008

... confident big band ...
Michael Wolch, Winnipeg Free Press October 11, 2008

On its second release, the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra (WJO) has decided to tackle the Great American Songbook. With a cast of too many musicians to list here, the big band swings through several numbers, including Steppin’ Out With My Baby and What is This Thing Called Love, both featuring vocalist Jennifer Hanson, and lies back into some gentle ballads, such as Henry Mancini’s The Thought Behind Your Smile and Cole Porter’s All of You.

The playing is tight, agile and full of energy, and many of the arrangements by artistic director Richard Gillis and trumpeter Rick Boughton are top-notch.

Trombone player Jeff Presslaff gets in on the arranging several times as well, and his three-part piece Oz Suite, which is based on a few themes from the Wizard of Oz, is particularly engaging.

After 11 years the WJO has matured into a solid, confident big band.

-- Michael Wolch, Winnipeg Free Press October 11, 2008

... essence and quiet power ...
Michael Wolch, Winnipeg Free Press February 18, 2008

The [WJO] always plays a few numbers without the guest star, so they continued with a tribute to the recently deceased Oscar Peterson, an arrangement of Hymn to Freedom by the WJO's trombonist Jeff Presslaff.

This was one of the highlights of the afternoon, as Presslaff captured the essence and quiet power of the classic song by featuring a small combo playing in New Orleans style. It was a superb and subtle performance.

-- Michael Wolch, Winnipeg Free Press February 18, 2008


... snug horn charts ...
Randal McIlroy, Style Manitoba Autumn 2007

Crooked Cha

What a suave band this has become, playing Latin jazz of often entrancing elegance. Rodrigo Munoz’s band is mobile in its writing and arranging strengths, with trombonist/pianist Jeff Presslaff and the leader contributing especially well to the songbook, and bassist Gilles Fournier providing the band’s best chance yet at wider radio play with “Gone,” a song caressed by guest vocalist Mira Black.

The sound is especially rich in slower moments, more burnished than glossy thanks to the snug horn charts from Presslaff, David Lawton and Ken Gold, and there are glittering cameos – Gold’s fat baritone and darting soprano saxes, Will Bonness’s wooly organ, Victor Lopez’s nimble playing of the fretted Cuban tres.

-- Randal McIlroy, Style Manitoba Autumn 2007

... fiery improvisations ...
John Barron, August 2007

Papa Mambo
CD Title: Crooked Cha
Year: 2007
Record Label: Uncontrollable Records
Style: Latin Jazz / Latin Funk

Led by conguero Rodrigo Munoz, Papa Mambo is an exciting Latin jazz ensemble based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The all original set on Crooked Cha delivers an eclectic mix of authentic Latin rhythms, intricate compositions and fiery improvisations.

The disc opener, “Blue Barron,” written by trombonist/pianist Jeff Presslaff, combines a melancholic vibe over a lively shande groove. Bassist Gilles Fournier plays a stand-out solo before the return of the dark-shaded melody.

The mood quickly shifts gears on the funky “Bug A Lou,” followed by the sensuous “Gone,” a cha cha cha featuring guest vocalist Mira Black and vibraphonist Stefan Bauer. Other highlights include the melodic twists and turns of the title track, and the lyrical “Amor Incondicional,” a bolero featuring Presslaff and saxophonist Ken Gold.

The added presence of guitar, both American and Cuban styles, brings a unique presence to parts of the session. “New Dirt,” features the soaring electric guitar of Larry Roy, and “Convidame,” features the wonderful tres playing of Victor Lopez who also handles the bongo throughout the session.

Papa Mambo succeeds at bringing a forward-thinking approach to Latin jazz while retaining the accessible qualities inherent in the dance-oriented rhythms. Crooked Cha is a fascinating release by an ensemble deserving of wider recognition.

-- John Barron, August 2007

... fusion with the grooves ...
Chris Smith, The Winnipeg Free Press

Papa Mambo 2004

Winnipeg Afro-Latin jazz ensemble Papa Mambo gets under your skin with a 10-track disc of infectious tunes released this week at the Winnipeg Art Gallery's Jazz on the Rooftop.

The music is a thinking person's groove, a mix of the intelligent and the infectious, mostly from the pens of Jeff Presslaff and Rodrigo Munoz. The title track, composed by Presslaff and arranged by the pair, is a perfect example of how the music appeals to the listener on many levels.

Tee's Knees is an intriguing piece...elements of fusion with the grooves, while the closer, Pensando En Ti, is a tempo-shifting number that highlights the good arranging and playing that pervades the album.

-- Chris Smith, The Winnipeg Free Press

... great recording ...
Neal Coligan, 99.1 Cool FM

This is a great recording. If you don't have it yet, I recommend that you go out and buy it ..."

-- Neal Coligan, 99.1 Cool FM

... foot-fooling rhythmic cross-play ...
Randal McIlroy, Style Manitoba Magazine

The return of Papa Mambo with Amanecer (Uncontrollable Records) is a graceful thing. Much as he always wanted audiences dancing, leader/percussionist Rodrigo Muñoz was always eager to show the breadth of Latin-Jazz fusion beyond the irresistible drumming (he started as a guitarist, which may help explain matters).

Jeff Presslaff is a valuable new lieutenant in the group, tripling on trombone, keyboards and arrangements. Their joint composition, "New Monk" is a stunner, with foot-fooling rhythmic cross-play, and sinuous soprano saxophone from Ken Gold, who is on the money throughout.

It's a shame Carol Hutchinson sings only one song this time around, but "You've Been Giving Me Ideas" is lovely compensation.

-- Randal McIlroy, Style Manitoba Magazine

... expert execution ...
John Kendle, Uptown Magazine

Papa Mambo Amanacer (Uncontrollable Records) Reviewer's Grade: A When Rodrigo Munoz returned to Winnipeg following an eight-year sojourn in Chile (his home and native land), he not only brought back his welcome exuberance but also an even greater understanding of the intoxicating Latin jazz and big band music that has been his muse since he was a youngster studying classical guitar at the University of Manitoba.

Munoz is one of those musical polymaths capable of precise, gifted work on a variety of instruments, but it is his understanding of the interplay between rhythm and melody that gives Papa Mambo its vibe and its soul. Similarly, trombonist Jeff Presslaff brings his knowledge of brass to bear with expert execution.

In the post-Buena Vista world, novice ears may find it difficult to tell the imitators from the real thing, but a run-through of this disc will turn listeners on to the precise arrangements of Munoz and Presslaff, as well as the tremendous percussive abilities of the likes of Scott Senior (now a Duhk) and Victor Lopez.

Implausible as it may seem, this group of expatriates (from New York, Montreal and Venezuela, among other places) and locals has made a welcome home for Afro-Latin music in the middle of the Prairies. Long may they run.

-- John Kendle, Uptown Magazine


... a wild ending ...
Chris Smith, Winnipeg Free Press June 28, 2004

Concert Review
Tribute to Charles Mingus

...Boogie Stop Shuffle provided a wild ending to the Mingus tribute with the crack band put together by Presslaff, including his own trombone, wailing through one of Mingus's best compositions.

-- Chris Smith, Winnipeg Free Press June 28, 2004


... excellent soloing and comping ...
Chris Smith, Winnipeg Free Press June 18th, 2003

Horns aplenty shine at tribute gig

4 stars out of 5

SO What, you say?

Well, Jeff Presslaff's arrangement of So What, a signature tune of trumpeter Miles Davis, was the highlight of the tribute to the jazz legend that opened the mainstage jazz shows Monday at the Jazz Winnipeg Festival.

Musical director Presslaff, on piano, led a nine-piece band through 13 of the better-known tunes associated with Davis's acoustic heyday.

The four trumpeters -- Frank Burke, Dave Lawton, Richard Gillis and Bob Van Den Broek -- took turns reprising classics like Bye Bye Blackbird, Milestones, Round Midnight, If I Were a Bell, Blue in Green and the lesser-known Vierd Blues.

Ken Gold on alto and tenor saxes and Greg Gatien on tenor filled the roles played by Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane in those famous Miles' bands, while Gilles Fournier played bass and Kelly Marques manned the drums.

Had this been a blowing contest - which it wasn't - Lawton would have walked away the winner for his open trumpet solo on Seven Steps to Heaven, a mix of great technique, lyricism and fire. But he would have won just by a hair because all the trumpeters were in top form playing some of the best-loved jazz tunes, ever.

If not everyone in the audience could name all the songs, they certainly recognized the tunes.

Frank Burke nearly blew his brains out on Vierd Blues with a fiery solo which proved one of the night's real crowd-pleasers.

As you'd expect, there was a lot of muted trumpet in a tribute to Miles. Gillis was on the money with his rendition of Round Midnight and Van Den Broek played a gentle muted solo on Circle.

Gold and Gatien both blew like crazy on material that was designed to showcase the saxophone as well as the boss's trumpet.

In any Miles band, the rhythm section played an integral role and Fournier's bass playing was great, especially a tasty little reference to longtime Miles' bassist Ron Carter during a long solo on Vierd Blues. Marques was also excellent, fuelling the ensemble sound and soloing.

However, it was the pianist who deserves credit for the success of the show, for his excellent soloing and comping, but more so for his arranging of the material; especially the show closer, So What, which was rewritten to get in all four trumpets and showcased the great ensemble work.

-- Chris Smith, Winnipeg Free Press June 18th, 2003


... astute harmonic knowledge ...
Jim Mair, Saxophone Journal Feb 2001

NORTH END SHUFFLE: Ken Gold And Special Grind

Ken Gold is a Canadian saxophonist that I have enjoyed listening to for quite a number of years. Ken grew up in Montreal and attended Concordia and McGill Universities. In 1984 Ken moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba to teach high school band. In 1994 Ken gave up his high school gig and began to focus on performance. You can find Ken Gold today, living in Winnipeg and performing on any given night of the week in a jazz or commercial setting. Ken also maintains a healthy private studio of fine young saxophonists.

North End Shuffle was recorded in October 1998. Financing for this project came from a grant allocated by Manitoba Film and Sound and from FACTOR-Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent On Record. There are nine compositions that make up this disc. Ken's concept for the recording was to encourage collaboration and creative involvement from all of the participants.

The CD begins with the title track composed by Ken Gold. Bassist Daniel Koulack sets up a catchy groove and a harmonic progression vaguely reminiscent of Killer Joe. Gold overdubs a full sax section to expose the melody and blows a well-paced tenor solo. Guitarist Tim Cummings offers a funky solo tipping his hat at times to Wes Montgomery.

Pianist/trombonist Jeff Presslaff offers three originals to the date. 2 Blue 2 B initially has an ECM feel to it and then leans towards shades of Miles Davis' mid-sixties combo. Ken delivers a strong, less is more alto solo. Presslaff shines on piano. Stuff that Turkey is an altered 12 bar blues. Kelly Marques lays down a New Orleans-esque street beat that is quite a bit faster than Andante. His drum solo work is very inviting. Jeff Presslaff's third offering is entitled Last Word. This introspective ballad closes out the disc showcasing Gold's smoky tenor sax and Presslaff's astute harmonic knowledge.

Tim Cummings shares his composition Whadda They Know. This is a very catchy funk tune with some terrific comping by the composer. Jeff Presslaff plays a rhythmically impressive trombone solo that leaves you wanting more. Ken Gold plays a smoldering tenor solo. The horn line is quite hip, but played a little on the polite side. I would love to hear this tune performed in a nightclub setting where the cats could stretch.

The Zipper is a burning straight-ahead tune with some Coltrane harmonic movement. Ken's nimble alto chops are prominent on this selection. Bassist Koulack, drummer Marques and pianist Presslaff can all be heard to advantage. By way of extreme contrast, Dark Horse features Ken on Madras Flute, Duduk and Ocarina. Jeff Presslaff performs on Conch Shell and trombone. A lot of different ethnic influences make this cut a real winner. Speaking of winners, you are sure to enjoy Gold's reworking or merging of James Brown's Cold Sweat with Charlie Parker's Moose the Mooche. He calls this one Moose Sweat. The Chomsky Moan is another funky Ken Gold original that exhibits Ken's rich baritone saxophone sound. This is an enjoyable debut recording by Ken Gold and Special Grind. You'll get a lot of variety on this 53-minute disc.

Ken Gold has effectively amalgamated the cultural and musical diversity that Winnipeg, Manitoba is known for. The Winnipeg music scene continues to be in great hands!

-- Jim Mair, Saxophone Journal Feb 2001