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Steelpan standout Jonathan Scales
comes to town

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New York, USA - The Big Apple will be privy to a performance by a standout musician who is in the process of making a name for himself, both on the national and international performance circuits, and has already released two CDs.  Whether leading his group “the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra,” or performing as a solo artist, the pan is Jonathan Scales’ instrument of choice, with Ryan Lassiter on drums, Duane Simpson on guitar, with Shannon Hoover as bassist.

Scales and his crew will be holding musical court at The Shrine in Harlem, New York on Friday September 11.

Within a two-hour time slot between 6:00–8:00 p.m., the Fourchestra looks forward to plying the audience with either two 45-minute sets, with a short break in between - or, says Jonathan “If we’re feeling crazy…we might decide to play one long set, maybe an hour and a half long. I’ll get the Fourchestra to vote on the matter...” 

Jonathan gave WST (When Steel Talks) some insight into the intriguing name “Fourchestra,” his sophomore release “Plot/Scheme” - and more.


WST: How did the term “Fourchestra” came about - besides the obvious indication of four musicians, and why the name?

Jonathan “To be honest, I didn’t want to have just another ‘quartet.’ Everyone puts quartet or trio after their names, and I felt that ‘Jonathan Scales Quartet’ was a little too generic-sounding for what I was trying to do artistically. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Quartets!) We were actually called Jon Scales Quartet for the first couple months of the band’s existence. I racked my brain and SOMEHOW stumbled upon Fourchestra. When I think of the term Orchestra, I think of a consistent, set group of musicians that bring their individual strengths to the table to perform a composer’s work… I like to think of us as a very small, non-traditional orchestra.”

WST: What has been the reaction to your sophomore release “Plot/Scheme” to date?

Jonathan:  “Well, I guess I have a different approach when it comes to the steel pans and I feel like people instantly “get” what I’m trying to do when they listen to “Plot/Scheme.”  I’m always pleasantly surprised when listeners like the album, because it’s never what people expect to hear.  I feel like ”Plot/Scheme” does a good job of explaining where my influences come from and who I am as an artist/composer.”

WST: There are probably specific selections from your first CD “One-Track Mind” which engendered crowd response.  Can fans coming to see you at ‘The Shrine’ in Harlem, expect to hear any selections from that debut release, included in your repertoire for the evening?

Jonathan:  “There are a couple of tunes from “One-Track Mind” in particular that people seem to latch on to.  People seem to like “Desert” ….it’s one of the easier songs to get into right off the bat, but still has my ‘signature’ complexities… hahaha…

We’re from the mountains of North Carolina, so “Pan Grass” turned out to be a popular piece from that album… it’s a bluegrass/latin fusion number.  We will more than likely play “Desert,” but we may get run out of the city playing Pan Grass! (just kidding) We’ll see...”

WST: What do you want your audience to come away with on Friday evening - in addition to having heard some really great music, with the pan as lead instrument?

Jonathan:  “I’m just happy to have a solid cast with me, playing my original music for people who appreciate it.  What individuals walk away with is on them!  BUT…I’m a composer before I’m a panist, so I hope that the audience can appreciate the thought I’ve put into my writing. I hope the audiences understand that I LOVE the music of Trinidad & Tobago, but I have to do my own thing that is more in line with my life experiences.  I also thank T&T (Trinidad & Tobago) for bringing a great instrument into the world - and thanks for letting me do my thing with it, as far removed as it may seem!


Jonathan Scales has had about forty-three scheduled performances for 2009 along the east coast.  It has been a year of all-round revitalization and innovation in terms of personnel and management.  Additionally, Ryan, Duane, and Shannon have active engagements with other bands outside of Fourchestra. 

This past March found Jonathan delivering his first international performance in Trinidad, as part of the festival Jazz Artists on the Greens.  Given such an opportunity and occasion ripe for performing non-traditional music on the country’s national instrument, and for an audience of the people of T&T themselves, Jonathan came away pretty fulfilled from the engagement.

After Harlem, Fourchestra will be rolling into Tennessee and North Carolina for four festival performances from September 25 through October 2.

Related articles:
Jonathan Scales is A Bad Man: This Cat can play the steelpan
Panist Jonathan Scales is ‘The Real Deal’


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