JONATHAN SCALES FOURCHESTRA
Asheville-based jazz bandleader Jonathan Scales trained as a saxophonist before enrolling at Appalachian State University to study composition and music theory. There, he fell in love with the metallic timbre of the steel pans. Developed in Trinidad and Tobago, the chromatically pitched pans are primarily used as Caribbean percussion, but they’ve played a part in jazz’s arsenal before, notably in pannist Othello Molineaux’s collaborations with legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius. Scales’ Fourchestra — actually a trio including bass and drums — takes Molineaux’s experiments further, employing the pans’ ringing tones in laid-back swing, poly-rhythmic hip hop and electro-static jazz fusion. Though the steel pans may always carry a whiff of tropical breeze, Scales overcomes musical typecasting by drawing on his sax training, using the pans as both a solo and an ensemble instrument. Citing Bela Fleck’s nontraditional technique on banjo as an influence on his approach to the pans, Scales crafts time-slipping compositions drawing on the dissonant harmonies and angular melodies of Thelonious Monk, the experimental classicism of Igor Stravinsky, and the urban swagger of Kanye West.