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Courtesy Mike Morel
Drummer Phill Bronson (from left), Jonathan Scales and bassist Cody Wright.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Jonathan Scales came to steel drums late — his freshman year at Appalachian State University, in Boone, N.C. But once the young sax man was introduced to the pans, he was hooked.
“It became what I was most comfortable on, instantly,” the Asheville, N.C.-based Scales said in a phone conversation last week. “So even from day one, I wanted to just drop saxophone and play steel pans forever.”
He joined the university’s steel drum band, but he had to keep playing sax to get through college. He focused his rehearsal time on steel drums.
In the decade since then, the 28-year-old performer and composer has become a master, with a knack for unusual compositions that draw, in spirit, from music like that of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.
Scales said that when he first heard Fleck’s band a few years back, he realized that if a banjo player like Fleck could make music so different from traditional banjo music, then Scales could be comfortable writing and performing music that veers far from the traditional Caribbean sounds associated with the steel pans.
Two members of the Flecktones — bassist Victor Wooten and harmonica player Howard Levy — make guest appearances on the new album, “Jonathan Scales Fourchestra.” But the core unit of Scales, drummer Phill Bronson and bassist Cody Wright is a force in its own right, even if it is a trio, and not really a “Fourchestra.”