New recording draws heavily from BU roots

June 16, 2020

A man leans against a brick wall with a saxophone hanging from his neck
Dr. Matthew Steckler, also known as Matty Stecks, released his latest album, Long Time Ago Rumble, in May. (Photo by Nevada Kirby)

A project that started when Dr. Matthew Steckler joined Brandon University’s (BU’s) School of Music three years ago came to fruition this spring as he released his latest album, Long Time Ago Rumble.

Performing with a crew of guest musicians as Matty Stecks and Musical Tramps, Steckler issued the double album, Long Time Ago Rumble, last month. Combining jazz, pop and experimental music, the album ties together a wide array of inspirations, from silent movies to a series of children’s books that match up animals for theoretical battles. The album also has a strong Brandon University flavour.

“The common thread is BU, from soup to nuts,” said Steckler, who recorded four albums with a sax quartet, bass and drums ensemble, and two more with a jazz quintet before coming to BU. “This album is more eclectic in style and orchestration than my other efforts.”

Long Time Ago Rumble features two children facing each other in front of a stone wall. One of the children is wearing a Spider-Man mask.

Long Time Ago Rumble has been garnering positive reviews from jazz publications. (Album cover designed by Charles Steckler)

The BU connections are one of the reasons for that eclecticism. The album began as a project in embodied composition, supported by the Brandon University Research Council (BURC). Steckler expanded the concept for a Brandon Chamber Players concert in early 2019, re-scoring a short film by Charlie Chapin and writing several additional pieces. Later that year he brought together colleagues from the School of Music for a recording session, funded by BURC and Manitoba Film & Music, with the musicians adding to Steckler’s compositions by recording improvisational “rumbles” built around the future album’s theme, which itself was drawn from one of his son’s favourite books at the time, called Who Would Win?: Ultimate Dinosaur Rumble. Steckler later interviewed the musicians for an article in BU’s Research Connection publication.

Steckler plays saxophone, flute, keyboards and electronic instruments as well as adding vocals on the album. Featured performers include School of Music faculty Eric Platz (drums), Leanne Zacharias (cello) and Catherine Wood (clarinet), BU alumni Keith Price (guitar), Matt Kozicki (bass), Lenya Wilks (vocals) and Hannah Fearn (vocals), along with Steckler’s wife Megan Demarest (vocals). Noted Winnipeg pianist Jeff Presslaff also performs on Long Time Ago Rumble.

“I wanted to harness the exceptional talent of the BU community, and began to write new music with their specific skill sets in mind,” Steckler said. “I was really excited by the prospect of working with people who were masters of their own distinctive musical approaches, yet open-minded about collaboration.

“That can only happen in a smaller, vibrant musical community such as this.”

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of a western Canadian tour to support the release, but Steckler is looking at different ways to get the music out, including livestreams and smaller house concerts for now. Despite that, Long Time Ago Rumble has already made a mark, receiving glowing reviews from the Winnipeg Free Press, on the website All About Jazz, and even in Russia. It’s also received airplay on CBC, in the UK, and in New York City. The album reached No.6 on Earshot Magazine’s, National Jazz Chart for campus and community radio stations.

Long Time Ago Rumble can be streamed or downloaded on the Ropeadope Records website.