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Pablo Sanchez

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the metalwood story

Sometimes, what may at first appear as a seemingly insignificant and forgettable event can echo with a magnitude far greater than ever imagined possible. A chance encounter can evolve into a tight relationship. A quick decision can become the foundation for a major stage of one’s life. Or a simple melody, harmony or rhythm can turn into an infectiously grooving song.

For the four men who compose the jazz quartet Metalwood, a rather fortuitous series of such events has lifted them to a totally unexpected pinnacle as a band. You might say that an unstoppable fate has brought bassist Chris Tarry, drummer Ian Froman, trumpeter/keyboardist Brad Turner and saxophonist Mike Murley together to record a series of increasingly exciting, sophisticated and outright swinging albums.

And this progression has reached a new level of creative synthesis with The Recline, their fourth album. This collection of original tunes draws together a plethora of musical elements that the band has developed since forming in 1997—from the funky, laid back groove of "New Pants," "Steeplejack" and "Strollin’," to the manic aggression of "Pressure," to the straightahead acoustic jazz esthetic of "Mr. Mike"—and galvanizes a clear direction as to the group’s musical future.

"This is the most mature record we’ve recorded," Tarry says, eschewing a bit of his modesty to justifiably brag about the music the band produces with this album. "There are more tunes on this album. A lot of the material on the first three albums was improvised. Here, we’ve tried to capture that spontaneous vibe, but with more thoroughly written tunes."

But to get to the point of even recording one album … that’s where fate plays a major role in the Metalwood saga. Flash back to the summer of 1996. Turner meets Murley while teaching at a summer jazz camp. Froman tours Canada as the drummer in Tarry’s acoustic jazz trio—the two had met when Tarry was a student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where Froman teaches. Murley meets Tarry and Froman briefly as they share a van ride at a jazz festival at which they were performing.

Back in Vancouver in the fall, the idea to start a project centered around a more electric vibe starts to percolate between friends and musical colleagues Turner and Tarry—an outlet in which they can express their love for electric Miles Davis, the Headhunters, Weather Report, Return To Forever and so forth. Froman had previously discussed the idea with Tarry, so although the drummer lives in New York, Turner and Tarry peg him to provide the backbeat for the seedling project. Floored by Murley’s playing that summer, Turner taps the saxophonist to round out the group … even though he lives in Toronto. The entire length of a continent may have separated these musicians, but that would not deter the inevitable musical force of Metalwood from progressing.

On the plane from Toronto to Vancouver, Froman and Murley sit next to each other, and although they had only met briefly before the flight, by the time they get off the plane, "they acted like best friends," Tarry says. The band rehearsed in the afternoon, played a gig at night, and then headed into the studio for two days of recording. The resulting eponymous album won a Juno Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Recording. Metalwood 2 (1998) won a similar Juno, and Metalwood 3 (2000) was nominated for—but did not win—another Juno.

The right men had come together at the right time. Murley puts it best: "The main thing about playing music is to get the right people together, and after that, it’s easy

"There’s such a chemistry between us, something that’s very natural and organic," Froman says. "It’s interesting that Mike and I are a little older than Chris and Brad, and come from a more acoustic background. To do something that is not only louder in volume, but groove based, was definitely a shock to my system. But I love it."

When The Recline producer Scott Morin proposed the idea of the band recording for Universal, he wanted to find a way to stir some excitement, to throw the band’s fans a little off guard. The idea to bring special guests into the sessions emerged, and Morin did not mess around: He went for the best, and tagged guitarist John Scofield, percussionist Mino Cinelu and album-spinner DJ Logic to complement the core quartet on several tracks.

The trick to this set-up working was to find common musical ground upon which to play. "At first, I really didn’t know how it was going to work out, bringing guests into the mix," Turner admits. "But given that all four of us are jazz musicians, and play with different musicians all of the time, I figured that it would find its way. Plus, those dudes know what’s going on. With Scofield in the studio, it was hard to avoid hero worship. He’s one of my favorite players of all time. I’ve grown up with his music. It was unreal, until we actually started playing. Then it all clicked musically."

The groove kicks in right off the bat with the leisurely "Strollin’," and continues through an array of styles and sounds all the way until the abrupt (and rather humorous) cutoff on the furiously intense collective jam "Pressure."

Metalwood put significant thought into each song on the album. Turner laughs when telling the story about recording "New Pants," on which Scofield plays a supremely funky solo. "Sco turned to me and asked, ‘So, what kind of new pants are these? Are these the tight ones that you don’t want to wear, or are they the nice flared ones that you want to go down the street in?’ I said, ‘The second kind!’ I wanted to write something with a ’70s vibe."

Scofield, in turn, returns the compliments to Metalwood when talking about the album sessions. "They groove, so it just kind of happened naturally," says Scofield in his Zen warrior-like manner. "They’ve been influence by fusion, but they are real jazz players. To make good jazz-rock, you have to have those jazz roots, which they have. Because they’re great musicians, everyone made room for the additional players. When I got there, I just played, and did the same thing I always do when I play with other people. Their musical instincts are sharp. We all just did it, and it worked. It was definitely easy to play with them. Stylistically, we hit it off."

The band wanted to throw surprises into the album at every chance possible. "Mr. Mike" does just this, a more straightahead jazz vibe that Turner wrote to "make sure that there was something on the album that hinted at the depth of the musicians. I was thinking about ‘(Used To Be A) Cha Cha’ from Jaco Pastorius’ debut album, the way Herbie Hancock plays piano on that, when writing this tune." Along the same lines, the Murley-penned "The Hipster" provides a platform for the guys to blow some adventurous solos. "Lemming" sounds just like the name: "I just imaged lemmings while writing the song," says Turner about the game of musical chase that ensues in the song.

And some songs grew into their current states in the studio. The extended atmospheric bass intro "U.B. The Monster," for example, came together spontaneously. "This was an idea that I had for a while, and in the studio I set up the loop and overdubbed parts on top," says Tarry, who wrote the song. "It started as something relatively simple, but became something very different."

With Cinelu and DJ Logic in the mix, the rhythmic foundation upon which the band could improvise expanded profoundly. Check out "Bumpus" ("I wrote that in when I had a few days off Pescara, Italy. The idea was to focus on some of the tunes that we had done in the past that had a more definite groove to it," Turner says) as a prime example of Logic’s rhythmic prowess on the turntables; and "Steeplejack," written by Tarry with Cinelu’s playing in mind, shows the rhythmic unity that Cinelu and Froman forged in the studio.

"I was very touched when they contacted me," Cinelu says. "Being in the studio with them brought back memories, of when you play music for the fun of it. You don’t try to classify what kind of music it is. You just play. That attitude touched me. My challenge was to be as respectful as possible, as I came into a very well thought-out group. I had to really blend with the music, to try to imagine how I could put my touch on a very open, yet precise direction with a strong concept."

This strong concept is a deep-rooted allegiance to a jazz esthetic. The may be improvising more off of heavy backbeat grooves than key changes throughout the album, but this does not change the fact that all these guys have roots in acoustic jazz. "We would not ask anyone to be anyone but himself for this band," Turner says. "There is no way that Ian or Mike would be involved with this if they had to lose their jazz roots. We all have the utmost respect for each other as musicians. No one will shed their musicianship to play in this band."

And the members to not take the word "band" lightly. As the outlook has expanded for Metalwood, this has become more than just another stop along the road of the big jam session known as the jazz scene. Having now played together for almost five years, they share a commitment to taking this band to heights of its potential.

"I’m really proud to be a part of this band because we work so well together," Froman claims. "We play very strong, deep improvised music. And now, people are getting to know who we are. It’s nice to not be an individual any more. It’s great to be part of a well-working unit. We really get into the music. We’re serious."

"We couldn’t substitute someone out of this band and still be called Metalwood," Tarry says. "When we realized that we had a special sound, when things started to take off, we all realized that we should put some more time into it. Musically, this is our No. 1 priority."

"It’s exciting for a Canadian band to have an opportunity like this," Murley adds. "It doesn’t happen very often."

But luckily for us, fate has given these four musicians this opportunity, and only time will tell how widespread their impact will be on the international jazz community.


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HOLY FUCKIN' SHIT GUY'S, THIS IS THE SHIT. I was lucky enough to have cought Metalwood this summer and Booche you will love these guy's.....Killer groove Jazz...They've worked with Scofield, Logic and Mino Cinelu(whom by the way is on Bravo Jazz Box tonight at 6:00, I highly recommend seeing it)... 'nuff said.


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Enough about that.......do you recall my telling you about an ad I placed in Relix looking for tape trades?

I signed it BOUCHE but they mispelled it so I have become BOOCHE since........

As for name calling, you can call me Chris Hood if you want......just dont say it in jest

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Mike may have gotten the license plate but I definitely was tabbed Bou/oche before he was....

It aint confusing (unless you are one that is easily confused)

There is a different spelling

one has a U

one has an O

its that simple, and now with the Avatars, it is Ultra-Easy

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