What is a Heillig Manoeuvre?

A vehicle for sharing music that is both challenging and satisfying, without intimidating its audience … contemporary jazz from a songbook, not a doctoral thesis.

"As a composer, I set the starting points for our musical adventures. Then they come to life in the hands of these, my favourite companions. As a bassist, I am influenced greatly by the conversations we create together, and I play my best when in their company."
Henry Heillig


Bassist Henry Heillig was born and raised in Montreal. His parents were music lovers, his dad an amateur who played folk and calypso on the guitar, Bach on harpsichord and blues and jazz on the piano. Henry’s first musical incarnation was as singer/songwriter, accompanying his own songs on acoustic guitar in local coffee houses.

Henry’s first professional bass gig occurred in the wilds of Ghana. While he and his friend Michael Bard were travelling in West Africa, a chance meeting led to their joining F. Micah’s Concert Party, a 38 member vaudeville style troupe which traveled village to village, performing a 5 hr variety show outdoors nightly. Michael and Henry played R&B and funk tunes with the highlife drummer in the troupe, causing much amusement among the rural audiences who had never before witnessed 2 white boys shakin' their tailfeathers!

Henry returned to Canada and settled in Toronto, where he resumed bass studies and performed in folk circles with, among others, Ian Tamblyn and Nancy White

In 1979, Henry and Matt Zimbel founded the nine piece latinfunksalzajazz band Manteca. This Juno winning ensemble released 10 LPs and CDs and toured the world’s major festivals, from Stockholm to the Hollywood Bowl. From 1980 to 1996, Henry also toured and recorded with some of Canada’s top children’s entertainers including Sharon, Lois and Bram, and Eric Nagler, for whom he produced three albums and the music for 5 seasons of Eric’s World TV.

More recently, Henry has been freelancing in the busy Toronto jazz and blues scene. He has also been part of harmonica master Carlos del Junco's band the Blues Mongrels, since 1997.

Henry has been musical director for both the Genie and Gemini Awards (Canadian film and Television) shows, has composed music for film and documentaries, and is currently producing recording and live projects.


Saxophonist Alison Young is only a few years removed from her studies at U of T, but her playing shows her to have a very old soul. Alison has been featured in the Red Hot Ramble, Tara Hazelton’s swing band, and Big Rude Jake’s ensemble, with which she has toured in Europe several times.


Pianist Stacie McGregor has been making people pay attention to her in the past few years. When not performing with The Heillig Manoeuvre, she can be heard in Kollage, the hard-driving bebop group led by drummer Archie Alleyne. Stacie was also featured in bassist Brandi Disterheft’s ensemble, which gave her the opportunity to perform in the company of both Herbie Hancock and Dave Brubeck. Stacie also performs regularly with saxophonist Jim Heinemann’s Dream Band.


Drummer Charlie Cooley, Heillig’s rhythm-mate in Manteca for over 20 years, has also toured with many of Canada's top acts, including Sass Jordan, The Guess Who, Jimmy Rankin, Prairie Oyster, and Kellylee Evans. Cooley and Heillig have been described as "playing as one".