Posts Tagged ‘virtuoso’

Jonathan Scales had an amazing album release event this past weekend in Asheville at the Emerald Lounge.  The new album, Character farm and Other Short Stories, is now available on his website and i-tunes. Bold Life did a great interview with Jonathan Scales and below are some excerpts:

Building Character

BY ROBIN TOLLESON in Bold Life www.boldlife.com

For his third album, Character Farm And Other Short Stories, steel drumming frontman Jonathan Scales wanted to imitate long form. “Back in the day the great composers like Wagner wrote complete works from top to bottom as opposed to just a bunch of songs mixed together,” he says. “An epic saga that takes you through all the movements.”

To help tie together the musical fusion of his Fourchestra, Scales called upon the comic book-inspired artwork of Gregory Keyzer. “There’s a different illustration for every song,” Scales says. “It’s cool because you can kind of put a visual image with each piece. The album is packaged like a book of short stories, but there’s an overlying theme. The sonic tapestry, mixed with the congruent artwork, really ties the whole thing together. The pictures help people make their judgments about what it’s about and how they feel about it. It’s not complete long form, but it’s closer.”

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“Every time I put out a CD I want to get further along,” Scales says. “It takes a lot of planning to have a successful release. You work hard on the music, and you want people to hear it, so that’s when you have to kick in on the other side and try to get things rolling.” Scales planned a pre-release campaign to build some momentum. In February he released a behind-the-scenes video with footage from the recording session. And last month he released a full-length music video of his song “Muddy Vishnu.” “I’m trying to get people interested,” he says.

The Fourchestra recorded Character Farm at Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville, in the fashion of classic jazz records. “We all played together,” Scales says. “We got enough separation that we could get some real good sounds, so it comes off like a studio album with a lot of energy, as a mixture between a live recording and a studio album, kind of like the best of both worlds. That was (sound engineer) Michael Hynes’ approach to the thing.

Character Farm features the churning 6/8 “Jam We Did,” the slightly-island strut of “Science Fair Project,” the breakneck steel-drum’n’bass of “The Longest December,” and “Muddy Vishnu,” a dynamic tune filled with plot twists reminiscent of The Flecktones’ classic “Sinister Minister.”

“This set has my same style, as far as some metric complexities and style changes. Different uses of rhythms and timbres and harmonies,” Scales explains. The music is solid, he says, because the lineup was solid. “My other two albums had streams of different people. This album is definitely more focused.”

Guitarist Duane Simpson, drummer Phill Bronson, and bassist Michael Libramento are the main backing cast on the album, with four guests, saxophonist Jeff Coffin, flutist Kofi Burbridge, percussionist Yonrico Scott, and fiddler Casey Driessen.

“Overall it has a pretty edgy sound,” Scales says. “It has highs and lows as far as dynamics and styles. ‘Muddy Vishnu’ is definitely on the more rockin’ side — my take on a mix between Muddy Waters and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. I wanted it to be a subtle thing to where if you understand or if you’ve never heard them, it’s not a big deal and you’ll still enjoy the song.”

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READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE and find out more about Jonathan’s history and the rest of the Fourchestra:  http://www.boldlife.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A18113

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Compositionally-twisted work of steel pannist Jonathan Scales “Character Farm & Other Short Stories” includes nine original instrumental “stories” and features guests Jeff Coffin, Kofi Burbridge, Yonrico Scott, and Casey Driessen. The cast of Characters hold this mind-bending concoction together with jazz edge and classical sensibility along with custom designed comic book graphics illustrating each song for the album artwork…

Asheville, NC- March 31, 2011–  The steel pan, an amazing musical discovery born in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad & Tobago, is often times associated with sandy beaches, tropical climates, and cruise ships: that’s not exactly what you get at a show by the jazz-fusion quartet, Jonathan Scales Fourchestra. Modern Drummer Magazine recognizes, “… Jonathan Scales makes the pans fit in unconventional musical spaces…” and Jazz Times goes on to state that Scales’ brings forth a “new vitality to the traditional Caribbean instrument… picking up where Othello Molineaux left off 20 years ago with Jaco Pastorius.”

Here you have a classically trained composer turned steel pan maestro and front man of the Fourchestra, Jonathan Scales, heavily influenced by the complexity of banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck to the hustle of Jay-Z. Gritty blues guitarist, Duane Simpson, and fusion-chops bassist, Cody Wright, provide the harmonic support for Scales’ sound, while jazz/hip-hop drummer, Phill Bronson, drives the time-shifting, modern grooves. The cast of Characters hold this mind-bending concoction together with jazz edge and classical sensibility.

As an immediate release by Le’Rue Records, the 3rd installment in the Jonathan Scales’ musical saga, Character Farm & Other Short Stories, is a 45-minute dive deeper into the compositionally-twisted work of steel pannist Jonathan Scales.  The nine original instrumental “stories” on the album take listeners from the primal Jam We Did to the lush Hallucinations of the Dream Chasers. The title track Character Farm takes the audience into a chilled, ‘worldly’ ride after the frantically emotional The Longest December. Guest appearance on the record include Jeff Coffin (of Dave Matthews Band / Bela Fleck & the Flecktones), Yonrico Scott and Kofi Burbridge (of Derek Trucks Band fame) and the dazzling work of fiddle virtuoso Casey Driessen.

Jonathan Scales has also been busy creating a NEW Music Video for the song Muddy Vishnu from the album which is available to watch on www.jonscales.com. Scales’ has a unique approach to his album artwork with custom designed comic book graphics illustrating each song with artwork by Gregory Keyzer. He’s also made available a glossy 19 x 13 poster with the comic graphic images.

Steel pannist and virtuoso composer, Jonathan Scales, formed his ‘Fourchestra’ in 2007 as a means to deliver his musically complex, yet accessible ideas to anyone willing to listen. Since then, Scales has released two well received, full-length works, 2007’s One-Track Mind and 2008’s Plot/Scheme which features the likes of Jeff Coffin, Joseph Wooten (of Steve Miller Band), and Jeff Sipe (of Aquarium Rescue Unit). 2011 will usher in Character Farm & Other Short Stories.  Scales’ versatility and innovative nature have allowed him to play along with with acts like The Wooten Brothers Band, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, The Duhks, Everyone Orchestra, Toubab Krewe, Ben Sollee, Casey Dreissen, and Futureman.

Scales has been called a “…rising star of the steel drums…” by Traps Magazine, while Pan on the Net refers to him as “the Real Deal” and having “A Thelonius Monk-like attitude with a Mozart creativity that works.”  When Steel Talks sums it up with, “At the end of the day, Scales is going to be a major play in rewriting the books on steelpan music outside of the box.” With Character Farm, Scales has pushed the limits of conventional steel-pan yet again.

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Photo by Jon Leidel

The steel pan, an amazing musical discovery born in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad & Tobago, is often times associated with sandy beaches, tropical climates, and cruise ships: that’s not exactly what you get at a show by the jazz-fusion quartet, Jonathan Scales Fourchestra. Here you have a classically trained composer turned steel pan maestro (front man Jonathan Scales), heavily influenced by sounds from banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck to rapper Jay-Z, joining forces with a super-solid but sensible Rock & Roll drummer (Ryan Lassiter). Rapid-fire blues guitar (Duane Simpson) and powerfully finessed bass work (Shannon Hoover) hold this concoction together with jazz edge and classical sensibility.
Steel pannist and virtuoso composer, Jonathan Scales, formed the ‘Fourchestra’ in 2007 as a means to deliver his musically complex, but somehow assessable, ideas to anyone willing to listen. Since then, Scales has released two well received, full-length works (2007’s One-Track Mind and 2008’s Plot/Scheme) featuring the likes of Jeff Coffin, Joseph Wooten, and Jeff Sipe. Scales’ versatility and innovative nature has allowed him to share the stage with acts like The Wooten Brothers Band, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, The Duhks, Everyone Orchestra, Toubab Krewe, Ben Sollee, and Futureman.

Check out some great photos by Vikas Nambiar from the last time the Fourchestra played the Double Door:


Here’s what the media has to say about Jonathan Scales Fourchestra:

“…A Thelonius Monk-like attitude with a Mozart creativity that works.” –Pan on the net

“At the end of the day, Scales is going to be a major play in rewriting the books on steelpan music outside of the box.” –When Steel Talks

“…rising star of the steel drums…” –Traps Magazine

“…Jonathan Scales makes the pans fit in unconventional musical spaces…” – Modern Drummer

“The innovative Asheville, North Carolina based steel drummer Jonathan Scales brings new vitality to the traditional Caribbean instrument on his sophomore release, picking up where Othello Molineaux left off 20 years ago with Jaco Pastorius.” – JazzTimes

“Jonathan Scales is dropping serious musical conversation. . . Jonathan Scales clearly has something to say – and he is letting his talent and pan instrument do the talking. There are many pretenders, but double second pan player Jonathan Scales is The Real Deal. ” – Pan on the Net

Show Details at a Glance:

Jonathan Scales Fourchestra
Double Door Inn
Friday, April 23, 2010

10pm, $10
1218 Charlottetown Ave
Charlotte, NC 28204

Find Js4 on the Web:


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By Justin McIntosh

Graffiti Magazine POSTED: February 23, 2010

Talking to Larry Keel on the phone you’d never get the impression his fingers move as fast as they do. With a laid back, almost lazy, southern draw, Keel’s voice could put even the most active mind at peace.

But on stage, Keel’s virtuoso finger-picking has lit up the crowd across the U.S., winning awards nearly everywhere he’s gone.

Come March 5, he’ll be returning to the Mountain State with his Natural Bridge band, to play a show at one of his favorite West Virginia venues, The V Club in Huntington.

Photo by Bright Life photography

Graffiti: Tell us a little bit about what’s going on with you.

Keel: Man, we’re just super busy right now. I’m sure like you all, you’ve had plenty of snow already.

Graffiti: Yea, we’ve had quite a bit.

Keel: I’m sure like you all, we’ve been rushing around, trying to get out of it. We went down to Alabama and Florida and all that end of it, trying to get out of it at the end of January. And now it’s all snowing down there. You just can’t get away from it.

But every thing’s going fine. We’re just trying to get all of our festivals in line for the festival season. That’s all rolling pretty smooth. We’re playing up in Delfest in Maryland. I love them, the McCoury Boys.

There’s one called Hookahville in Ohio. We’re playing that one, too. That’s a pretty big one. I love getting outside. With this snow, it’s gonna feel good to get outside and shake that cabin fever.

Graffiti: Are you playing All Good this year?

Keel: I’m not sure about All Good yet, but we sure would love to. We’re just trying to play a whole bunch of them and we’re just telling people to keep their ears out to the Web site.

Graffiti: You play quite a few shows here in West Virginia. What keeps you coming back?

Keel: We love the people of West Virginia. We’ve been playing there a long time and we’ve made a lot of great friends, including the Davisson Brothers, which are some great friends of ours. They’ve been really great friends and have introduced us to a lot of great people in West Virginia. We just love it, man. It’s a beautiful state and love to come back as soon as possible.

Graffiti: What are some of your favorite places to play?

Keel: As far as West Virginia?

Graffiti: A little bit of both. Within the state and elsewhere in the country.

Keel: We love playing at the V Club because everybody’s so nice there and have a great time. Patrick and them really treat you good. They’re jut wonderful folks there. I like all the different venues we play. We love the festival scene and we get to play a lot of theaters all over. We like a place where we can get the audience to come out and feel comfortable and we can get everybody on the same brain wave and just have a good time with it. That’s what makes a place special for us.

Graffiti: For a musician that’s accomplished so much, what keeps you motivated to keep practicing, to keep striving for improvement?

Keel: I love a lot of types of music. I’ll get to hear a lot of incredible musicians in all my travels and i Know a lot of amazing musicians and I play in a band with a lot of amazing musicians. The guys in my band are always learning and keeping on top of new music.

I get inspired by all that, big time; wanting to write my own music and hear my own voice and what I have to say about things. It just all inspires me — everywhere I go and everything I do.

Graffiti: Now, you’re new album was produced by Keller Williams.

Keel: We had a bunch of songs down, probably like 25 songs, and I couldn’t figure out which ones I wanted to put on one CD. So I had to call Keller Williams — he’s an old friend of mine, we’ve done a lot of recording together — and he helped me hone it down to a real CD and get some continuity to it. He added some of his flair  and some of his imagination to it and it turned out the way it did. We’re really happy with it.

I’ll add this little note, too. We were just in the recording studio with Keller again to record the second Keller and the Keels CD. That’s hopefully to be released out by June or so.

Graffiti: That’s pretty exciting.

Keel: Yea, he’s a fabulous guy. I’ve known him a long time — old friends from the northern Virginia area.

Graffiti: Are there any other artists you’d like to collaborate with at some point?Keel: Oh yea, there’s so many of them. We’ve been doing a lot of shows with Tony Rice playing in our band. He’s such a master at what he does and he’s such a wonderful person. I’ve very excited that we have more of those coming up.

Got some shows coming up with Adam Aijala from Yonder Mountain String Band that we’re really excited about. We did a big run down the Pacific Northwest, just he and I on duet guitar. He’s really fun and it’s nice bending some ideas off somebody like that.

Contact Justin at jmcintosh@graffitiwv.com

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Yonder Mountain String Band’s Adam Aijala is teaming up with fellow guitar virtuoso Larry Keel for a short run of acoustic shows in the Southeast. Get ready to watch these two bad-ass guitar players tear it up with their wild riffs and antics from their experiences picking and jammin’ together backstage, at festivals throughout the years, and their recent tour out West this past December.

Larry Keel is a world renowned, internationally touring, Mountain Music Troubadour. At 18, Keel ventured overseas to work at the Tokyo, Japan Disneyland, as a “Western Land” musician; playing 6 shows a day, 6 days a week for a solid year. Talk about getting your chops down! Early on, Larry established himself as a phenomenally talented flatpicking guitarist, winning top honors at guitar competitions across the country. Throughout his career, Keel has released 13 albums and is featured on 9 others.

While he honors the pioneers that introduced bluegrass and mountain music into popular culture, Keel allows his music to evolve and embrace sounds and styles that inspire him, all along the way. He has collaborated and shared the stage with many of his own legends including Tony Rice, Sam Bush, Vassar Clements, Curtis Burch, Peter Rowan, Darell Scott, Jim Lauderdale, Jack Lawrence, Mark Vann, Vince Herman, Mike Marshall, Darol Anger, Keller Williams, amongst others.

Keel has weathered the changing tides of traditional bluegrass, country, jam rock, roots reggae, and even the currently emerging indie-alt scene always honoring the pioneers that introduced Bluegrass and Mountain Music into popular culture. He is an ever evolving musical force that stands in ongoing defiance to all genre expectations. Don’t bother trying to pigeonhole the music of Larry Keel. He’s untamed and untamable.

When not performing with his MIGHTY ensemble, Natural Bridge, Larry collaborates regularly with powerhouse pickers in shows and events and instructional workshop situations across the country. Often, these music events coincide with another of Larry’s natural-born passions: FISHING. This year marks the beginning of his completely original recreational concept, FISHIN AND PICKIN, that serves as an on-line resource and networking hub in all things to do with fishing, the great outdoors, music, camping, enjoying life to the fullest!

Meanwhile, Adam Aijala was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and spent the majority of his childhood in the nearby town of Sterling. As a young teen, Adam loved skateboarding and listening to punk and hardcore music. He was exposed to such bands as Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, and the Descendents.

In 1986, at age 13, Aijala began playing electric guitar and taking lessons. He learned power chords first, playing dozens of short punk tunes. In his early years of high school, he added metal bands like Metallica and Slayer to his repertoire. Shortly after, Adam’s musical tastes began to shift. He began listening to Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and even the Grateful Dead. Desiring a new sound, Adam picked up his first acoustic guitar at age 17. He started listening to Bob Dylan and in college, Old and In The Way.

During his years at UMass Amherst, Adam played whenever he could as he studied Forestry. After graduation in 1995, and after a couple of major knee surgeries, he played several open mics around Worcester; strumming his originals like “Left Me In A Hole”, along with Dylan covers. He worked in the forestry field until 1997, when another knee injury forced him to rethink his career choice. It was at this point that Adam decided to pursue his career in music, moving to Nederland, Colorado. It was there where he met Jeff Austin, Ben Kaufman, and Dave Johnston…and the rest is YMSB!

Akin to Keel, Yonder Mountain String Band has always played music by its own set of rules. Bending bluegrass, rock, jam, and countless other influences that the band cites, Yonder has pioneered a sound of their own. With their traditional lineup of instruments, the band may look like a traditional bluegrass band at first glance but they’ve created their own music that transcends any genre. Dave Johnston points out “What could be more pure than making your own music.” Yonder’s sound cannot be classified purely as “bluegrass” or “string music” but rather it’s an original sound created from “looking at music from [their] own experiences and doing the best job possible.” The band continues to play by their own rules on their new record The Show.

“With me and Adam it’s just the guitars and doing our thing and doing some really cool freaky material and it is just so comfortable and that’s the way the music should be,” Keel said. “There shouldn’t be no hidden agenda just really soulful playing and writing and getting down to business. It is the most serious blessing of the whole thing. I grew up being so inspired by seeing and hearing all of these players like Sam Bush and Tony Rice, and even a lot of names you don’t hear or have never heard of, so it is like full circle for me to now get to stand in that circle with them and make music and trade riffs and feelings off of each other. It is the most amazing thing and I can’t believe it is happening sometimes.” ~ Dave Lavender, Herald Dispatch

For this tour with Keel and Aijala, expect more bending, twisting, and genre defying feats of guitar mastery and fiery vocals; rooted firmly in a tradition that is rich within both of their individual music!

West Coast Tour Samples:

Americana Roots posted an audio archive from their show at Mississippi Studios in Portland, Oregon: Set 1, Set 2

Check out some video archives from the West Coast tour:
Full show from the Tractor Tavern
“They”- Mississippi Studios
Instrumental- Mississippi Studios
Instrumental- Humbolt Brews
Burl Galloway song- Humbolt Brews

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