Robert R.A. Fadley
I wasn't sure what to expect when I arrived at 5 Points Music Sanctuary to see Jonathan Scales Fourchestra but this trio hit me like a ton of bricks from opening note to close. Let me just start off by saying, I have never seen anyone play the steel drum/pan like that, nothing comes close. Jonathan Scales takes this instrument to another level; a level which most of us are not used to especially at the forefront, leading the band. A mixture of jazz, high-powered funk, and even hip-hop, the rudiments behind each song are much like a classical composition. The skill and musical prowess of each individual member of JSF is comparable to many compositions on a progressive level; reminding me of Stravinsky, Weather Report, Zappa, perhaps even Phish. This band is far beyond some cruise ship steel drum act and should not be taken lightly. (Picture the opposite of the cheesiest version of calypso possible.)
The stage lights shone down into the steel drums, reflecting off the surface and bouncing back like colored waves against the ceiling, illuminating the sanctuary with an otherworldly glow.
It was a cosmic journey through the scales and many extremely difficult compositions. It was like, sitting down and watching an orchestra play an entire symphony. In the continued recap, I will do my best to explain the songs I can remember. "Focus Poem" which features Bela Fleck on the newest album, is a big influence for Jonathan Scales. The drummer was seen smiling and laughing almost the entire performance. The bassist running lines like Alphonso Johnson. At one point, Jonathan would take off on a solo section showing off his extraordinary skills. It was truly a classical composition on the steel drums and there is no other way to describe it.
"The Trap"written on a napkin in 5 minutes, has stood the test of time and is a wild ride through ups-and-downs of chaotic orchestral changes and progressions. The next song called "Fake Buddha’s Inner Child" was thought out and meticulously structured. This was one of the best performances of the night and I am wondering the story behind this songs title. The stage lights shone down into the steel drums, reflecting off the surface and bouncing back like colored waves against the ceiling, illuminating the sanctuary with an otherworldly glow. A special guest flutist would join the Fourchestra onstage for a selection of wild compositions and solo improvisational performances. The flute seems to be the perfect additional instrument to this ensemble, providing a great backdrop for these obstreperous compositions.
Jonathan took the time to teach the audience his irregular timing and worldview (7x7+6=World Peace) Jonathan was constantly calling out the shots, improvising on the fly and leading the band into new musical territories. From life changes and crazy times come great music. "Cry" from the new album is one of those that are wrought from these difficult experiences. I enjoyed this slower number and look forward to checking out the new album when it's released. It's evident that each one of these guys is just happy to be playing music onstage. "How To Rebuild Your Battleship" was an extremely difficult song but the band played through flawlessly. This one sounded as though it could be used in a film score in some action adventure or even video game.
The night would end with a cover of "Kiss From A Rose" and another well thought out and prepossessing composition. I wouldn't hesitate to see Jonathan Scales Fourchestra again, especially at 5 Points where this kind of music and sound are sacred. I hope that Jonathan and his band continue to amass followers and enlighten the musical world with his knowledge not only the steel drum/pan but composition in general. I could certainly see Jonathan Scales Fourchestra playing any number of late night sets and various music festival across the county.