Canada’s premier electric jazz band reunites for new album and tour

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Two-time Juno winner Metalwood launches Twenty

Sept. 9-11 – Frankie’s Jazz Club, Vancouver
Sept. 13-14 – The Rex, Toronto
Sept. 15 – Village Guitar, Saskatoon
Sept. 16 – Calgary Jazz Society, Calgary
Sept. 17 – Yardbird Suite, Edmonton

 

Twenty years ago, a group of intrepid Canadian jazz musicians put together a band that quickly became the country’s foremost entry into the world of electric jazz.

Metalwood scored consecutive Juno Awards for its first two numbered releases and earned excited praise from critics and fans alike for its groovy, improvisation-heavy tunes that drew inspiration from Miles Davis and Weather Report.

Roger Levesque of the Edmonton Journal called them “a band with one of the most capable adventurous sounds in groove jazz this side of the 49th parallel.”

This fall, the quartet of Chris Tarry, Mike Murley, Brad Turner and Ian Froman reunites as a veritable supergroup under the banner of Canada’s venerated indie jazz imprint, Cellar Live.

The new album is aptly titled Twenty.

Tracks such as Turner’s “Bodybeard” hearken back to the band’s early days, with its funky vibe, bubbling bass and over-the-top brass and drum-driven jam. The RnB-tinged “Rooftops” and “Solidarity,” also by Turner, are a nod to the group’s Weather Report influences, while Tarry’s “Push” is a throw to its crazed rhythmic adventures and his “Gargantua” a return to its vibey side.

But like every Metalwood album before it, Twenty also sees the band moving in new directions – in this case, showcasing a more composed and mature sound than ever before.

Tarry’s opener, “The Past Before You,” inspired by the modern New York players he surrounds himself with in the Big Apple, features a space age sax hook over classic piano and a relatively understated rhythm section as Metalwood albums go.

Turner’s “Clutch,” composed in seven, is one of the band’s rare forays into unusual time signatures.

“Fortune Smiles” is an all-round gentler turn for the band, and “Good Things for Good People” is an outright swing number – the most “pure jazz” track Metalwood has ever recorded.

All in all, Twenty unfolds like a conversation between a group of old friends, separated by years and distance, but instantly able to pick up where they left off – seamlessly synthesizing their new life experiences into their pre-existing chemistry.

And what a collection of life experiences it’s been.

Bassist Chris Tarry moved to New York City in 2003 and earned a Juno Award for his subsequent solo album, Almost Certainly Dreaming. He pursued his interest in literature, receiving his MFA from the University of British Columbia and publishing a collection of short stories, “How to Carry Bigfoot Home,” which received the IndieFab 2015 Book of the Year award for short fiction. When not playing jazz with the biggest names in New York, he can be found working on his next book, or producing music for some of the top names in the industry.

Saxophonist Mike Murley brought his total number of career Junos to nine when his trio, Murley Bickert Wallace, took home the prize for its album Test of Time in 2013. Other career highlights since the Metalwood era include a 2008 album with Grammy nominated sax legend David Liebman (his former teacher), a 2004 performance as part of Solos: The Jazz Sessions – a Bravo Canada series that captured renowned jazz artists in the challenging solo performance format – and a 2007 performance at Festival Internacional Cervantino in Mexico. In 2011, Murley accepted a full-time lecturer position with the University of Toronto.

Trumpeter and pianist Brad Turner received Juno nods in 2007 and 2009 for Best Traditional Jazz Album, a Western Canadian Music Award and an Indie Music Award nomination in 2006 and a Canadian Urban Music Award nomination in ’05. He was named Musician of the Year at the 2005 National Jazz Awards and won Trumpeter of the Year and Producer of the Year at both the ’08 and ’09 ceremonies. In 2006, he received the Victor Lynch-Staunton Prize for excellence in musical achievement. Meanwhile he continues his long affiliation with Capilano University’s esteemed jazz program, where he teaches and directs the school’s ensemble.

And drummer Ian Froman remains ensconced in the New York City jazz scene, where he’s been heavily in-demand ever since graduating from the Berklee College of Music in the mid 80s. In addition to performing with the city’s top musicians, he now serves on the faculty of Berklee, Drummers Collective, New School University and City College.

Froman, Turner, Tarry and Murley have played the odd reunion gig over the years and talked about doing something bigger, but it took one more larger-than-life Canadian jazz figure to make it happen: Vancouver jazz impresario Cory Weeds, the founder of the Cellar Jazz music series and Cellar Live record label. With the band approaching its 20th anniversary, Weeds turned intention into action.

The result is not just a new Metalwood album but the best Metalwood album yet —one that’s sure to get jazz fans buzzing all over again.

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