Small commodities and big sounds

By James Keller

Pop music and rock owe a lot to jazz and blues, but according to Brad Turner, pop will never have the same staying power.

"The difference between jazz and popular music is that popular music is created for the moment and tends to be pretty disposable," says Turner, trumpet and keyboard player for jazz quartet Metalwood. "Even though it may be overlooked as more cerebral, in its best I think jazz will endure because it involves so much more creativity to make it."

Metalwood’s blend of jazz and beat-filled funk found on The Recline promises to outlast its competition in the pop world. After recently signing with Universal Music, Metalwood made the move from life on smaller indie labels like Maximum Jazz. Although their fifth album was better funded than previous projects, Turner doesn’t disregard the benefits of being independent.

"When you’re working on a smaller scale, you have a little more control over what you’re doing," says Turner. "But the flipside is you might not get your music out to as many people as you might like. When you’re working with a bigger label, your product is going to be shelved in all of the retailers across the nation."

Outside of Metalwood, Turner is still releasing solo records through Maximum Jazz, so he has the ability to see both perspectives simultaneously.

"It might seem like my life is totally different, but it’s not. I’m a jazz artist that’s still represented by a smaller label," says Turner. "I think it depends on what side of the fence you’re standing on, and I’m standing on both sides."

This view gives Turner a lot of creative possibilities in his music. Even under the umbrella of a major label, Metalwood took their music in new directions–what Turner describes as more beat-focused–and collaborated with other artists.

"There’s some pretty big name guest artists," says Turner, adding that with artists like John Scofield on board, "big name" might be an understatement. "This couldn’t come together without a label."

Metalwood’s new album also sounds more polished than previous efforts. This is due in part to new attitudes regarding constructing albums.

"I think the new album is pretty tight. It stays together nicely and it flows," explains Turner. "There might be more of an emphasis on the writing being more cohesive from one tune to the next."

And although other musicians were involved in the album, the songs stay true to Metalwood’s sound and style. While other artists had their own touches to add, the band was still ultimately responsible for writing the music.

"It all comes down to the composition," says Turner. "Even though you’re augmenting the size of the band, the common denominator is the tune you’re playing. The tunes are written in a way to accommodate [the guest artists’] styles and also give them some room to add their personal touch."

With this change in style and a host of guest appearances, Turner expects the band’s popularity to grow. And while Metalwood might never be alongside the pop clones on the top 10 lists, it will survive on its own merits instead.

"In think there’s a reason that we play jazz and people still enjoy jazz," says Turner. "It’s art. I don’t think it was ever meant to be a huge commodity."

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