Just when we thought they were gone for good, Canada’s premier electric jazz group Metalwood explodes from a gooey, melted mélange of bass-heavy funk, bubbling brass, and rambunctious drum medleys that defined their recordings at the turn of the 21st century.
The two-time Juno award-winning band is now back from a 14-year hiatus with Twenty — an album that pays homage to the 20 years it’s been since the band formed — through an all-new track list that’s pure caramel. Trickled with prominent hues of Weather Report and Miles Davis, Twenty is already being hailed as arguably the band’s best album.
In the midst of preparing for the album’s tour, trumpeter Brad Turner told The Peak how the band first came to be: one day in 1996 Turner expressed to bass player Chris Tarry that he wanted to experiment more on his Rhodes piano. After concluding they would form a band, the musicians reached out to Toronto saxophonist Mike Murley and New York-based drummer Ian Froman, who soon flew out to Vancouver to rehearse.
“We really just started the band to have a good time and play some music that’s — on the jazz spectrum — more electric. [. . .] Then we went into the studio, made a record, and we won a Juno!” said Turner. Their invigoration of improvisation-heavy tunes pioneered a new wave of groovy jazz, which quickly garnered an international fan base nourished with five succeeding albums.
Picking up from where they left off in 2003, Turner said that recording Twenty was all smooth sailing, apart from the fact that it can be difficult to physically bring the band members together to record, given their geographic locations and busy schedules. “We recorded out of a nice studio in Toronto,” Turner explained. “We had 11 tunes to learn in just one rehearsal, that we hadn’t played before. Whenever we have new music, rarely do we have the luxury of having three or four days ahead of the gig to rehearse — it’s basically one two-and-a-half-hour rehearsal.”
Nonetheless, Turner is proud of the album sculpted from this quick rehearsal, and said that he easily noticed how, over the past 14 years, his bandmates’ compositional writing has grown. “They’ve tried to push their compositions in a bit of a newer direction that sort of highlights some of the stuff that I, myself, have (also) been thinking about, musically.
“If you listen to some of our earlier stuff and compare it with our new album, you’ll notice that there are quite a few details that just weren’t there when [we] were younger.”
On a more personal note, Turner said that prominent jazz artists such as Wayne Shorter influenced his compositions in the new album. “It’s more the aesthetic of how he writes — strong melodies, interesting harmonies, things that sound relatively simple but if you try and play them, it’s not as easy as you might think.”
When asked if the band had plans to continue recording new albums regularly, Turner replied with, “It’s possible! Mandate number one is that we make sure we’re having fun while we’re doing this because that’s initially why we started it in the first place. But there really hasn’t been much discussion at all; we figured that if we could get away with doing one every 14 years then there’s no rush apparently.”
Reserve your live fix of Metalwood at Frankie’s Jazz Club in Vancouver, September 9–11.