Steel Pannist, Jonathan Scales recently released a new album entitled “Character Farm and Other Short Stories”. Here are a few reviews that have come in…
Kevin Jones with Exclaim.CA wrote:
Admittedly, the idea of a steel pan virtuoso likely conjures up images of a human carnival dynamo setting festivals ablaze with a mesmerizing display of some hot, hot island heat. Thusly hailed pannist Jonathan Scales, however, offers none of this, instead delivering a far more impressive collection of heady, multi-directional jazz soundscapes that bristle as his Fourchestra bandmates flip, slip and slide through the myriad tempo twists and compositional turns that make up Character Farm & Other Short Stories. Scales showcases his dexterity with a searing torrent of par runs on the devious, guitar-tinged “The Longest December,” while the epic tale told on “Complete,” with its double-time jazz opening descending into a tense, cavernous midsection, and the unconventional, shape-shifting “Science Fair Project” offer a scattershot glimpse at the gathered musicians’ fertile minds at work. Through the album’s countless turns, Scales manages to blend in the very particular sound of steel pan seamlessly with everything from a flute, horn and saxophone to the oft-accompanying electric guitar, all while showing off the easily stereotyped instrument in a new light.
Just in time for Spring Break, we received Jonathan Scales – Character Farm & Other Short Stories. Scales plays the steel pan – an instrument associated with Trinidad & Tobago, but this is nowhere near conventional Island music. I love this CD, particularly “The Trap” which includes fiddler Casey Driessen. Other guest artists include Jeff Coffin, Yonrico Scott and Kofi Burbridge. “Hallucinations of the Dream Chasers ” is hypnotic while “Muddy Vishnu” gets rockin’. The title track is as close as you get to an Island sound – can’t wait to listen on the beaches in south Florida with a bottle of rhum.
See the review here: http://myjoog.blogspot.com/2011/04/trying-to-find-room-on-ipod.html?spref=tw
Ashley Wilson with the Mountain Times in Boone writes:
To come across a band with a full-time steel pannist is rare. To come across a band with the steel pan as the central instrument is even more rare.
. . . . . . . . . In April 2011, Scales releases his third album “Character Farm and Other Short Stories.”
“Character Farm” is a collection of nine instrumental “stories.” The album is accompanied by a comic book design sleeve. Scales is depicted on the cover as a superhero wielding pansticks. Inside, artist Gregory Keyzer provides graphic interpretations of each song. With Scales’ music being entirely instrumental, the visual aids are a nice touch that may help listeners better understand his vision.
Scales considers his music “jazz fusion.” The steel pan is not traditionally associated with jazz, but he has adapted well to the style. Scales credits innovative banjoist Bela Fleck with inspiring him to disregard the imaginary boundaries placed on instruments.
The members of the Fourchestra, guitarist Duane Simpson, drummer Phill Bronson and bassist Michael Libramento, are excellent at jazz craft and assist Scales in achieving his distinct sound. The lengthy opener, “Jam We Did,” is an excellent example of the camaraderie of the performers, with Scales opening the floor for everyone to have a solo. Another jam on the album, “Complete,” showcases the members’ jazz abilities and serves as proof that the steel pan can indeed be considered a jazz instrument.
Jonathan Scales does not limit himself to a strict jazz regimen. His penchant for experimentation is most obvious in the last two songs of “Character Farm.” The appropriately titled “Science Fair Project” incorporates the flute of Kofi Burbridge, from the Derek Trucks Band. “The Trap,” with guest Casey Driessen, could very well be the first time a fiddler and steel pannist have performed on the same song.
Other guests on “Character Farm” include Dave Matthews Band saxophonist Jeff Coffin and Derek Trucks Band percussionist Yonrico Scott. They join the Fourchestra on “Hallucinations of the Dream Chasers.” The combination of steel pan, African percussion and the saxophone make it the most diverse song of the album.
Scales is promoting “Muddy Vishnu” as the first single from “Character Farm.” The title is a cross between Muddy Waters and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a 1970s jazz fusion group. Verging on urban hip-hop territory, it furthers the idea that for Scales, the steel pan has no bounds. He has released a colorful video online, which is well worth checking out.
“Character Farm” solidifies Jonathan Scales’ place as one of western North Carolina’s most innovative and creative artists. Not only as a performer, but as the composer of all the music on the album, Scales is a groundbreaker.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: http://www2.mountaintimes.com/entertainment_focus/Jonathan_Scales_Fourchestra_id_003326
To find out more about Jonathan Scales and get the album, visit: www.JonScales.com
Live footage from the Album Release show in Asheville: