Multi-instrumentalist and composer Jonathan Scales is likely the most innovative steel drummer on the planet. His stunning, virtuosic technique is obvious and apparent to any who have seen him perform, but it is his mesmerizing compositions and tasteful, avant-garde improvisation that set him apart from the pack. Scales’ unmistakably unique approach to an instrument often associated with cruise ships and tropicalia establishes him as something of an outlier. Whereas his talent and creativity could have been focused on other instruments he plays, such as saxophone, he fell in love with the sound of the steel pans. He may also have unconsciously seen it as a challenge… to transform the instrument in much the same way that his musical inspiration Bela Fleck did with the banjo. In fact, Driftwood Magazine made a similar observation, when it wrote that “Scales is to steel pans what Béla Fleck is to the banjo—an über innovator.” Pan On The Net, a blog dedicated to the global steel drum community, echoes the sentiment in its description of the modest Asheville, NC based composer as having “a Thelonius Monk-like attitude with a Mozart creativity.”
Jonathan Scales Fourchestra has a fluid line-up, allowing Jonathan to work with a wide range of artists, and in the past few years he has earned the respect of some of the most impressive players across multiple genres. The Fourchestra’s November 2016 tour of the Southeast is a prime example of this, showcasing bass wizard MonoNeon (Prince), drummer Robert “Sput” Searight (Snarky Puppy) and percussionist Weedie Braimah (The Nth Power). As with the tours, Scales’ recordings have also featured special guest performances from the likes of Victor Wooten, Howard Levy, Jeff Coffin and Kofi Burbridge. The Fourchestra’s self-titled 2013 debut album on Ropeadope Records, fully orchestrated with horns and strings, was a follow-up to the trio’s three independent releases, and the follow-up— Mixtape Symphony (Ropeadope), a dense, half-hour, long-form album inspired by and dedicated to Roy “Futureman” Wooten— peaked at #6 on the iTunes Jazz charts. Bringing the relationship full circle, Jonathan had the opportunity to perform with Bela Fleck and The Flecktones in Richmond, VA in June of 2016— a dream come true for the kid who used to wait outside venues for a chance to talk to his muse. Bela Fleck himself, in considering Scales’ cover of his composition “The Imposter”, remarked “To say I am impressed would be a gross understatement…”.
With an ear for myriad global sounds, it only makes sense for Jonathan Scales Fourchestra to expand beyond North America. They toured Central America, the Caribbean, Japan and Europe in the Fall of 2015, and a performance in The Netherlands landed them a spot on the prestigious North Sea Jazz Festival in the Summer of 2016, which anchored another tour of Europe. The Fourchestra has now been chosen by the US Department of State— from 300 finalists— to serve as musical ambassadors in a 6 week concert tour of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong & Indonesia in early 2017. Jonathan Scales has his eyes on the world, for sure… world, meet Jonathan!
“…joyously inventive… Jonathan Scales brings new vitality to the traditional Caribbean instrument, picking up where Othello Molineaux left off 20 years ago with Jaco Pastorius.” – Jazz Times
“…Scales is going to be a major player in rewriting the books on steel pan music outside the box.” – When Steel Talks