Guelph, Ontario, CAN

Manatee is a Guelph based, 11-piece improvising ensemble that mixes wild sounds, danceable beats, massive horn lines, and audiences as closely together as possible. The group uses hand signals to negotiate their way through improvised pieces of music, and invites audiences to control their performances by learning and making those same signals. Manatee takes cues from traditional, free, and modern jazz, afro-beat, hip-hop, pan-idiomatic improv, sound-painting, radical Jewish music and lots more.


Manatee has excited crowds at the Guelph Jazz Festival, Toronto's Open Roof Festival, The NUMUS concert series, Kazoo Fest! and many more. On January 15th, 2015 Manatee will release its debut audio/video album "Look The Other Way" to be available on iTunes, BandCamp and CD Baby.

Audience participation is an essential part of Manatee's sound and performance. If all goes to plan, the majority of Manatee's music is controlled by the audience! By allowing the audience to learn the group's hand signals and use them, Manatee pieces become a collaboration between the audience and the band! Manatee wants to make music with everyone, and we think we've found a way to do it.

Through a vast combination of musical systems and ideas Manatee has forged a brand new sound and process for music-making. Come out to a show and make some music with us!


Manatee's orchestration and sound owe a lot to West African afrobeat and highlife and music. Specifically, the music of Fela Kuti and the Kuti family, Ebo Taylor, Osibisa, E.T. Mensah, Prince Nico Mbarga, and the Bokoor band have had a special impact on Manatee's music.

Each Manatee piece is anchored by two repeating rhythmic patterns called "timelines." The musical concept of timelines is something guitarist Daniel Kruger was exposed to while studying music at the University of Ghana, West Africa. Traditional drumming music of Ghana uses timelines to guide dancers and drummers involved in the music. Each timeline has a name, and Manatee uses several Ghanaian timelines. Each Manatee piece that uses a Ghanaian timeline is named after it. 

Several hand signals Manatee uses are borrowed from Walter Thompson's "Soundpainting" system of composition. In Soundpainting, an ensemble of improvising musicians and a conductor compose pieces of music in real time as the conductor guides the ensemble by using Thompson's collection of musical hand signals. Butch Morris' system of "Conduction" is similar, and Manatee borrows from it as well.


Here's an incomplete, bendable set of Manatee rules.


1. Head/pre-composed section comes first

2. Improvised/Audience controlled section follows

3. Piece ends with a pre-composed ending, signaled by an ensemble member/audience member

Hand Signals:

Head> Tap top of head. Once the ensemble sees the signal, conduct two beats before entering the head.

Switch Rhythm> Wag your finger back and forth like you’re saying “no” to someone. Conduct two beats before switching.

Solo> Open and close your hand like a blinking light, then point to the band member you want to solo. 

Intro> Pull on ear lobe and conduct two beats before beginning the intro.

Make Your Own Timeline> Tap your wrist, then begin playing a rhythmic ostinato. The rest of the group will follow. 

*Hits> Put both hands up and pretend you're punching/slapping a wall in front of you with both hands. The higher your hands are the higher pitched the hit will be. Lower your hands to signal a low pitched hit.

*Volume> Two fingers on an upright forearm slide up and down like a mixing board to control volume.

*Tempo> Hold one forearm horizontal, crossed with your other forearm. Raise the horizontal forearm to increase tempo, lower it to decrease. Nodding your head along with the desired tempo helps to direct the band.

End> Raise a closed fist. Conduct two beats before entering the end section.

* = Signal borrowed from Walter Thompson’s “Sound Painting” system. Several other unlisted signals used in Manatee are borrowed from the same system.


Danny Berezowski: Tenor Saxophone
Danielle Fernandes: Alto Saxophone
Aldwyn Hogg Jr: Flute
Josh Kestenberg: Drums
Daniel Kruger: Guitar
Andrew Liorti: Keys
Keegan Lutek: Trumpet
Brent O'Toole: Percussion
Jake Scott: Alto Saxophone
Dylan White: Bass
Matt Manassis: Baritone Saxophone


2014 - Live @ Silence 
2015 - Look The Other Way (audio/video EP)