Metalwood – Twenty – CellarLive CL02016 ****:

The revitalization of a band devoted to electric/fusion jazz sounds.

(Mike Murley – saxophones; Brad Turner – piano,triton,trumpet; Chris Tarry – electric bass; Ian Froman – drums)

If you are into nostalgia for the electric/fusion jazz sounds like that of Weather Report, Return To Forever, and the Miles Davis band of the late ‘60s, then Metalwood’s newest offering called Twenty might be for you. This album is a revitalization for the same-named band that floated primarily in and around Canada in the late 90s and early 2000s, although there was some touring in the US and Europe. It also celebrates the twenty years since the group won it’s first Juno Award (Canadian equivalent of a Grammy)  for their debut album Metalwood. 

Over the intervening years, the playing of the members of the band has evolved as each one’s individual style and technique has matured. As part of this re-introduction to the listening public, ten new compositions were  written by Mike Murley, Brad Turner, and Chris Tarry. However compositional structure is often hard to define in this particular jazz form, as well as melody and time signatures. For the aficionado that is not particularly relevant, as they understand what they are buying into.

The members of the band are all excellent musicians, but it is really saxophonist Mike Murley and pianist/trumpeter Brad Turner who carry all the weight. Murley is a player of steadfast motivation with Turner showing that he is pianist of widening curiosity. On the opening track “The Past Before You”, Murley’s tenor leads the way with a muscular offering throughout, and Turner’s piano is a notable presence.

The musicians in the band would be loathe to admit that the music they perform has a certain amount of “sameness” to it. The challenge is to find those compositions that are not in that mold. A nice example is “Fortune Smiles” with an opening by Turner on Triton synthesizer, Murley then embarks on an extended exploration on tenor sax which is subsequently picked up by Turner. Through the magic of overdubbing, Turner also chimes in with a few well placed notes on trumpet as the band continues with its harmonic adventure.

Along the same lines is “Good Things ( For Good People)” which is another ruminative composition that brings all the elements together as the players show their proficiency and intensity. The final track is called “Push” and it is a spin though the musical looking glass. It is filled with unconventional shapes and sounds, and is replete with conflicting ideas and repetitive phrases.

TrackList: The Past Before You; Bodybeard; Fortune Smiles; Gargantua; Rooftops; Clutch; Good Things; Extra Salty; Solidarité; Push

—Pierre Giroux