Don't be fooled by the title of the latest effort from Metalwood, the groove jazz quartet hailing from Canada. There's very little about the ten multilayered and exploratory tracks on The Recline that's laid back or low key. Even in its quieter moments, it's a free-for-all that's rooted in the jazz tradition but fearless in its quest to push the improvisational envelope in search of the ultimate jazz groove.
The usual suspects—trumpeter/keyboardist Brad Turner, saxophonist Mike Murley, bassist Chris Tarry and drummer Ian Froman—are all in attendance, but they get some assistance this time from some new friends, and talented ones at that. Guitarist John Scofield lends a hand on four of the tracks—the minimalist "Strollin'," the earnest, R&B flavored "Bumpus," the quirky but upbeat "New Pants" and the unrelenting closer, "Pressure." Percussionist Mino Cinelu also appears on four cuts, usually in tandem with Scofield, but also on the shimmering, churning "Steeplejack." Turntablist DJ Logic adds generous doses of scratch and other sonic accents to "Bumpus" and "New Pants."
Turner admits to some apprehension about bringing new faces—even highly revered ones—into the studio mix. "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," he says. "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."
Indeed, even with the high-profile guest players, The Recline is still very much a Metalwood vibe, with catchy and insidious riffs that pay homage to the jazz tradition while simultaneously turning it on its ear and redefining the genre for a new generation and a new century. This commitment to musical alchemy has garnered the band three Juno awards (a Canadian version of the Grammys) for Electric Jazz Band of the Year.
Metalwood came together in the summer and fall of 1996, via one of those convoluted series of lucky accidents that bring together musicians from disparate geographical corners—Vancouver, Toronto, New York and Boston. Regardless of their points of origin, all four are clearly in the same place now and firing on all cylinders, as one listen to their latest effort is sure to prove. Underscored by an unmistakably jazz-based foundation and enriched with numerous layers of R&B, funk and even rock, The Recline captures the groove and hangs on with pitbull tenacity.
Don't let the title mislead you. This album is not something to be taken lying down.