Trio Bembe
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Trio Bembe

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada | INDIE

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada | INDIE
Band Latin World

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Dec
01
Trio Bembe @ Park Theatre

Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN

Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN

Oct
18
Trio Bembe @ Westin Bristol Place

Toronto, Ontario, CAN

Toronto, Ontario, CAN

Oct
03
Trio Bembe @ Maw's - BreakOut West

Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN

Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN

Music

Press


November 18th 2009

Winnipeg Latin/jazz musician Amber Epp excitedly prepares to release her debut

by Lee Repko (Volunteer)


Amber Epp, Winnipeg jazz scene’s “next big thing,” will be releasing her debut CD with Latin-influenced jazz combo Trio Bembe this Monday, Nov. 23 at the West End Cultural Centre.

Epp, who plays weekly with the Papa Mambo Trio at Hermanos, the new Exchange District hotspot for Latin American food and music, recently graduated from the University of Manitoba’s Music School and has a burning passion to contribute as well as perform.

“How can I improvise on these jazz gems and not write for myself?” asked Epp at Hermanos last weekend.

Epp may have a Mennonite name, but her influences come from all over the Latin American map: from Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and even Spain.

Growing up in Steinbach may not seem the ideal place for a lover of the hot and loose sounds of the southern hemisphere, but Epp continues to defy skeptics with her passion for the culture, even to the point of learning Spanish and Portuguese, maintaining a great sensitivity to the phrasing, and conveying an understanding in languages not her own.

“I started with intro Spanish classes at university and am continuing today to learn the language. I still don’t write [in Spanish],” Epp said.

Three of the album’s 13 pieces are hers, along with her appropriate interpretation of celebrated Argentinian novelist and poet Jorge Luis Borges.

“Instantes from the record was a poem I read in one of my classes by Borges and I knew I had to put it to music.”

Epp’s passion for this music is relatively new for her, first meeting Rodrigo Hernan Muñoz (of Papa Mambo) at the weekly jazz jam “Cool Monday Night Hang” at the Orbit Room only four years ago.

“This was the first place I heard live jazz. The more I heard the Latin flavour, the more I knew I had to learn this,” Epp explained.

Learn she did, eventually joining the award-winning Papa Mambo band as well as earning her chops with other students culminating in the Amber Epp Quartet.

“It was tough at first, a new language and I had to sing and dance, and then add in with percussion. Percussion is essential to Latin music; it’s all about the rhythm,” Epp said.

The ever-passionate and apt pupil of local jazz and Latin legends is excitedly anticipating her CD release.

“This music is fun, uplifting and upbeat. This isn’t just jazz, this is the folk music of the people and Winnipeg should take this rare opportunity to hear this music.”

Trio Bembe plans to tour this release, taking this incredibly sublime and smouldering package as far as they can.

“Better catch us now before we’re gone!” Epp warned, jokingly.
- The Uniter (University of Winnipeg)


Nov Issue, Airtimes Magazine
Michael Elves

Calling them “Kirby’s Kids” makes them sound like beneficiaries of a telethon rather than a group of up-and-coming jazz musicians; but the first crop of students from the University of Manitoba’s Bachelor of Jazz Studies in the Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music are beginning to make waves on the local music scene and they’re quick to credit the guidance of the Director of Jazz studies, Steve Kirby (along with the rest of the faculty) with getting them to this point.

“I really got all of my fundamentals, all of the basic knowledge that I really needed to do the kind of music that I do, at the university,” says vocalist/pianist Amber Epp.

Epp goes so far as to list Kirby and his wife Anna-Lisa Kirby as her top two influences on her Myspace page. She explains that, “I studied with both of them at university; Anna-Lisa was my vocal instructor and she was great because she never held back and never had any secrets. She would tell us anything we wanted to know…most of what I know about singing I started learning through Anna-Lisa and Steve. He’s the director of the program; he was hosting the Hang every week, giving master classes, and he taught my first improv class and I got to play with him at various things, Including hi Jazz on Wheels group…they influence me in a lot of different ways.”

The “Hang” Epp refers to is also known as the “Monday Night Hang,” or by it’s official title, the “Cool Monday Night Hang.” Another former student of Steve Kirby is jazz guitarist Keith Price, who reveals that while it doesn’t happen in a classroom, the Hang is where the majority of learning takes place:

“There are good and bad classes,” comments Price, “but what I really got the moist out of was the fact that it [the Hang] was a good environment…since it’s a small group of people and everyone was hanging out at the Hang every week. The conversations you’d have ovr a beer, you’d end up learning more than in the classroom. And just the experience of being able to sit in every – I don’t think I missed a Monday Hang session for like two years. That weekly experience there, just eing around those people and getting to hear Steve and Larry [Roy] and the players in town play every week; it was definitely just as much of an education, if not more, than what the school provided.”

Epp agrees that the Hang – which moved from its former home at the Freehouse to the Orbit Room – provided her with a learning opportunity to rival the classroom.

“The things we learn in the classroom are more of the history sort of thing. The performance aspect, most of that I learned by going to the Monday Night Hang…I basically learned by going up there, trying it out, falling on my face, and then getting back up again and trying it the next week.

Epp goes on to detail the performance pointers she picked up at the Hang that have served her in numerous performances since: “I learned even the most basic things – how to count off a tune, knowing the title of your tune, who wrote it, what key you’re going to play it in, if you want an introduction, how to tell the band. [And] you need to know what kind of feel the song is – if it’s going to be a swing, some kind of Latin groove, if it’s going to be funky.”

Mentioning Latin groove in conversation isn’t just a ‘for instance’ with Epp, as she’s primed to release a debut album with her group Trio Bembe (which also features Scott Senior on percussion and Rodrigo Muñoz on guitar, vocals and percussion). The release party for that is happening on Monday, Nov 23 at the West End Cultural Centre. Having dipped her toes in Latin groove with a guest spot on Marco Castillo’s Brazilian Season last year, Epp takes a bath in it on this upcoming self-titled Trio Bembe record.

Trio Bembe opened for Price when he released his debut record Breakfast of Champions earlier this fall, but Price won’t get to return the favour, as the group will be sharing the night and the stage with another U of M jazz student, pianist Will Bonness. Bonness will be releasing his own album that night, Subtle Fire, a mix of original compositions and reinterpretations of jazz standards. All three musicians – Bonness, Epp, and Price – are serving notice with their albums that the future of Winnipeg’s jazz scene is in capable hands. Hands that have been trained by Kirby and that have hung at the Hang.
- Airtimes Magazine, University of Manitoba


May 19/2011
Importing Latin rhythm to the prairie landscape

By Ian Froese

Amber Epp admits her preferred musical genre startles those who don’t know her. Besides, who would guess infectious Latin music could originate in the wintry prairies?
“It doesn’t have to be in your blood to do it,” said Epp “you just have to be passionate about it.”
The Trio Bembe vocalist is used to a surprised reaction. However, it doesn’t bother her in the slightest. The “Mennonite from Steinbach” is the first to state she has no cultural background in the music she is now attached to.
“It’s one of my favourite things to tell people,” said the 24-year-old. “But I take it as a compliment; it means people feel that what we are doing is authentic.”
Like many artists, Epp began with humble beginnings. She grew up in Steinbach, performing in as many school musicals and choirs as she could. After graduating from the SRSS, she studied jazz at the University of Manitoba.
Each week a jam session was held in her school bringing many musical credentials to the impromptu gathering. It was where she got her first taste of a rhythm that would get her dancing then and in the future.
She followed the beat to Cuba after receiving her university degree to spend three months in the country learning Latin music at one of its birthplaces. It was there she trained with the best and experienced firsthand where the music’s inspiration comes from.
Epp soon expanded her horizons. She learned Spanish and Portuguese, fueling a further dimension to Trio Bembe’s voice.
“I’ve completely lost my Mennonite accent and got a Spanish one,” Epp joked. Her band sings most often in Spanish, but the other two languages are also heard.
Last month Trio Bembe released their second album On My Soul. Epp described it as a very upbeat disc, “featuring Latin music from around the world.” They distributed their self-titled debut in November 2009.
She hopes their sound reminds listeners of that southern travel getaway they probably daydream about.
“I like to tell people, (this album) is the cheapest ticket to the Caribbean you can find,” said Epp. “We want people to think of that great vacation.”
Now living in Winnipeg, Epp, and her band mates Rodrigo Munoz (guitar, vocals, percussion) and Scott Senior (percussion) are readying for a few summer gigs in Manitoba, including a concert at Steinbach’s Summer in the City Festival.
Epp remarked it’s unique to sing under the night sky in Cuba, but her heart also has a place for where her musical aspirations began.
“It’s special in Cuba because you’re actually there, where it happens. As a foreigner, it’s exciting to have people accept you,” Epp said. “But here, to bring something that was kind of nurtured in Steinbach and go here’s what I did with everything you gave me. It’s special.”
Trio Bembe’s latest release is on sale now at Musical Directions as well as their website, www.triobembe.com. They perform at the Summer in the City Festival on Friday, June 17 at 1:30 p.m.
-- 30 –

Photo by Marcelo Hinojosa

Scott Senior, Amber Epp and Rodrigo Munoz of Trio Bembe hope to see their audience dancing on June 17 in Steinbach when they bring their Latin vibe to the Summer in the City Festival.

- The Carillon


JazzTruth Review by George Colligan
Friday, March 25, 2011
Trio Bembe:Oh My Soul
If you know the Winnipeg jazz scene, you most likely know vocalist/ pianist Amber Epp. I first met and heard Epp two years ago at the Monday Night Hang (the local weekly jazz jam session, which is now known as the Wednesday Night Hang, since the Orbit Room changed it to Wednesdays). She struck me immediately as a natural performer, brimming with confidence and energy. Epp is from Steinbach, Manitoba, which apparently has a jazz scene so small it fits in a thimble(meaning there is no jazz scene!). Consequently, Epp never heard any jazz or Latin music until she was 15 years old. However, being the driven, precocious person she is, she immersed herself in the great jazz singers, studied hard in the University of Manitoba Jazz program, and has become an young artist with a bright future.
Amber Epp, in addition to being a great jazz singer, is also quite steeped in Afro-Cuban and South American music. She spent three months studying in Cuba, and has worked with a Winnipeg-based salsa group called Papa Mambo for a few years. Her own band is an offshoot known as Trio Bembe. The group features Epp on vocals, Chilean musician Rodrigo Muñoz on guitar, and Canadian native Scott Senior on percussion. I had the good fortune to work with them in Winnipeg last year as a guest and I enjoyed myself immensely.
Trio Bembe has two CDs currently available: the first is self titled, and features many Afro-Carribean standards and some originals by Epp and Muñoz. What's amazing about the group is the powerful groove and fullness coming from merely a trio. It's a nice change of pace to hear Muñoz' guitar as the heart of the band, since most music of this type (at least what I am most familiar with) features brass and piano. Epp has a voice that is full of character and emotion; she sings well in English and Spanish. The grooves, well provided by Senior on various instruments (including the cajon, which is seen a lot in Spanish flamenco music), are influenced by traditions, yet also convey a certain modern funkiness. My favorite song on Trio Bembe is Epp's original entitled "Victory", a bluesy tune with optimistic lyrics which is perfect for airplay.

Trio Bembe's sophomore recording is called Oh My Soul, and it is a continuation of the previous CD, but with some special guests on selected tracks(such as Jimmy Green on tenor saxophone,Victor Hugo López on guitar and the tres, and yours truly on keys), and also more of Epp's compositions. Epp's singing and Spanish has improved even more, and the music has more intensity. The opening cut, "Donde Estabas Tu?" sounds straight out of Cuba. A surprisingly fast version of the Cuban lullaby "Drume Negrita" is also quite convincing.
I was honored and delighted that Epp asked me to lay down a track on Tania Maria's classic funk anthem "Come With Me." It's a version which is not as heavy- sort- of- disco oriented as the original, but it has a nice relaxed feel. But the album picks up again with a lively version of "Guararey de Pastorita" which features the wonderful tres stylings of Victor López.(The tres is a Cuban type of small folk guitar,with three doubled strings.It's primarily used for rhythm, but it's not really strummed, it provides rhythmic counter-melodies. It's a lot like the calvaqhinho in Brazilian music.) Throughout the album, Epp's vocal style is not concerned with heavy virtuoso melismas; her voice has a distinctive, buoyant, compact quality, with just enough vibrato to keep it interesting. Her singing is accurate and intense.
When I hear cuts like "La mucura", which is an Antonio Fuentes tune from the late 40's, and "Yerbero Moderno", a Celia Cruz hit, I get a sense of high authenticity. Trio Bembe knows their history. But also, with originals like "Oh my soul," and "Olhos de luz", I get a look into the future. I see great things for this band. If you live in Winnipeg, you can catch them (and me!) at their CD release party on April 15th, 8pm, at the West End Cultural Centre.

- Jazz Truth


Singer Amber Epp puts last year's studies in Cuba to use on the new Trio Bembe CD, Oh my soul.
The Caribbean nation is represented on six songs on the 16-track sophomore recording by the Winnipeg Latin music trio of Epp, Rodrigo Muñoz (guitar, vocals, percussion) and Scott Senior (percussion).
Epp composed four tunes and a fifth with Muñoz and sings in Spanish and English on this entertaining mix of music from Canada, Cuba, Peru, Brazil, Portugal, Colombia and Chile.
Muñoz and Senior are longtime Latin jazz stalwarts with the popular Papa Mambo band and Epp, a jazz studies grad who has embraced the music with open arms, is a newer member.
Most of the tunes here are performed in a spare format, which emphasizes the voice and percussion aspects, but the trio draws on a few musical friends. Check out tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene's solo on Yuma, one of Epp's compositions, and George Colligan adds a groove and texture with a Rhodes keyboard on the title track, another Epp tune.
Trio Bembe will hold a CD release show April 15, at the West End Cultural Centre, 8 p.m., with guests Larry Roy (guitar), George Colligan (keyboard) and Nicole Briones (dance). Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door(students $10/$12) and available at McNally Robinson, 475-0483.
The trio will be at McNally Robinson 7 p.m., April 26, to play a few tunes, share stories from the road, and sign CDs.
- Winnipeg Free Press


“Trio Bembe is absolutely contagious - fabulous music that, in spite of yourself, makes you dance like no one is watching!” - Heather Bishop

“There's a lot of music to listen to these days and our ears get pulled in a million different directions. So
what makes great music stand out in the crowd?
Passion, superb musicianship and a love for the music being played. You know what, that describes Winnipeg Latin band Trio Bembe!” - Kinzey Posen, CBC Music Producer

“Close your eyes, and you are quickly whisked away to any of the legendary clubs in Havana, Rio de Janeiro, or Buenos Aires.” - The Carillon

“Getting hips moving isn't hard for the trio. They have a driving, exotic rhythm behind the songs that make even the most reluctant listener at least tap their feet.” – Manitoba Music

“What's amazing about the group is the powerful groove and fullness coming from merely a trio. It's a nice change of
?pace to hear Mun~oz' guitar as the heart of the band, since most music of this genre features brass and piano. Epp has a voice that is full of character and emotion; she sings well in English and Spanish. The grooves, well provided by Senior on various instruments (including the cajon, which is seen a lot in Spanish flamenco music), are influenced by traditions, yet also convey a certain modern funkiness.” – Jazz Truth

“When I hear cuts like "La mucura", which is an Antonio Fuentes tune from the late 40's, and "Yerbero Moderno", a Celia Cruz hit, I get a sense of high authenticity. Trio Bembe knows their history. But also, with originals like "Oh my soul," and "Olhos de luz", I get a look into the future. I see great things for this band.” – Jazz Truth
- Various


Discography

2011: Trio Bembe "Oh my soul"
- *Winner* 2011 Western Canadian Music Award "World Recording of the Year"
- #2 on Earshot! International College Radio Charts in fall 2011

2010: Manitoba Music Compliation

2009: Trio Bembe, "Trio Bembe"

Photos

Bio

"Trio Bembe is absolutely contagious - fabulous music that, in spite of yourself, makes you dance like no one is watching!" - Heather Bishop

Trio Bembe plays infectious Latin music from around the world. Having chased their passion from the snowy Canadian prairies to Cuba, Brazil, and Chile, this trio is overflowing with rhythmic energy. Their album “Oh my soul” won the 2011 “World Recording of the Year” Award by the Western Canadian Music Awards.

"There’s a lot of music to listen to these days and our ears get pulled in a million different directions. So what makes great music stand out in the crowd? Passion, superb musicianship and a love for the music being played. You know what, that describes Winnipeg Latin band Trio Bembe!" - Kinzey Posen, CBC Music Producer

Rodrigo Muñoz, native to Chile and leader of the well-loved 11-piece salsa band, Papa Mambo, brings his 25 years of energetic music-making to the forefront of the Canadian Latin Jazz scene with his new group Trio Bembe. Muñoz has performed at the Vancouver Jazz Festival, the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and the Montreal Jazz Fest. Trio Bembe’s upbeat, rhythmic grooves are supported by percussionist Scott Senior (The Duhks, Rankin Sisters) and vocalist Amber Epp (Steve Kirby, Papa Mambo).

Trio Bembe’s performance highlights include the Winnipeg Folk Festival (MB), Expo Latino (Calgary, AB), BreakOut West (Whitehorse, YT), the Winnipeg Jazz Festival (MB), and Folklorama (Winnipeg, MB).

Band Members and their instruments:
Rodrigo Muñoz – acoustic guitar, vocals, percussion
Scott Senior – percussion (bongó, cajón, pandeiro, caxixi, campana, clave, quijada [donkey jaw])
Amber Epp – voice, hand percussion (güiro, maracas, tamborim, campana), melodica

Band Members