Metalwood returns to studio after 14 years

Electric jazz band celebrate two decades of music making with new album

With 20 years of music-making under their belts, the members of Canadian jazz band Metalwood couldn’t be happier to be embarking on their next great adventure: the release of their first album since 2003, dubbed Twenty, and an accompanying cross-Canada tour to boot.

Vancouverite Brad Turner, a trumpeter, pianist and composer, as well as an instructor in Capilano University’s jazz studies program and director of the school’s “A” Band, has been with Metalwood since the beginning.

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When asked what he feels has contributed to the band’s longevity, he’s obviously quick to compliment the impressive talents of his peers, but ultimately credits the natural chemistry among members and their strong bonds forged along the way.

“We’ve all become very close friends through the years and watched each other’s lives develop and go down different paths and remained friends,” he says.

Rounding out the quartet are: New York City-based bassist Chris Tarry; saxophonist Mike Murley, a lecturer at the University of Toronto; and drummer Ian Froman, who lives in New Jersey, though commutes to New York to perform and sits on the faculty of Berklee, Drummers Collective, New School University and City College.

The members of Metalwood, described as “Canada’s premier electric jazz band,” have much to be proud of. The group earned consecutive Juno Awards for Best Contemporary Jazz Album for its first two releases, 1997’s Metalwood and 1998’s Metalwood 2, inspired by the likes of Miles Davis and Weather Report. They’ve also had many opportunities to tour internationally as well as record.

“It’s kind of neat that it started simply from a friendly conversation at a social gathering,” says Turner.

While the band has continued to play on and off as a group over the years, typically in Toronto, 2016 marks their official return to the studio after a 14-year absence.

“We all felt like it would be fun to do another record and that’s always been the mandate of this group is to make sure it’s fun, because that’s why we started it in the first place,” says Turner.

He, along with Tarry and Murley, penned a ton of new material and sent it around to the other members to review. Ready to move forward, Twenty was recorded over a couple of days in Toronto at Studio Number 9. First, however, the band decided to follow in the footsteps of their former selves. Prior to recording, they played a gig at Toronto’s the Rex Jazz & Blues Bar.

“It was almost exactly how it was in the very beginning, ironically. We flew in and rehearsed a whole bunch of new music, played it and [then] recorded it. I think it went pretty well,” says Turner.

Twenty is being released on indie jazz imprint, Cellar Live, and Turner is grateful for the support of record label founder Cory Weeds, who also founded the Cellar Jazz music series.

Metalwood is set to take the stage at Frankie’s Jazz Club Sept. 9 to11 before heading out on the road for a string of dates across the country for the duration of the month.

Turner’s busy fall will continue back at home as he has some gigs lined up with his Brad Turner Quartet and Brad Turner Trio, both of which recently released albums. Notably, his quartet’s, Over My Head was nominated for Jazz Album of the Year: Group at the 2016 Juno Awards.

Turner has been with Cap U since 1992, with the exception of a five-year leave of absence during the early 2000s. Working with the jazz greats of tomorrow is something he’s long been passionate about.

“It’s something that’s always been part of the tradition of jazz. Players at one point are starting out and hopefully, if you’re fortunate, you get opportunities to meet and play with more experienced musicians and that gets passed along as you get older. So having this job at Cap has been great,” he says.

Turner has even gone on to play in ensembles with his former students, further speaking to the value in carrying on the tradition.

“Lots of fine young players have come out of that program and I’m proud to be a part of helping them along their way. If we get a chance to work together, it’s even better,” he says.

Metalwood performs Sept. 9 to 11, at 8 p.m. at Frankie’s Jazz Club. Tickets at coastaljazz.ca.

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