North Carolina-based jazz fusion trio aim to wow Jackie O's before its world tour
Originally published in The Post.
Jonathan Scales Fourchestra is a jazz fusion trio who uses the distinctive melodies of the steel drums, bass, and percussion to gear audiences towards a new sound
Jon Scales began playing the saxophone in the sixth grade, which was only the beginning of his musical career.
Throughout the years Scales experimented with percussion and still occasionally played the saxophone, but while attending Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, he picked up the instrument that would define his largely successful band: the steel drum.
“I felt more comfortable with the steel drums than I did with the saxophone,” Scales said. “My friends twisted my arm into trying it out and here I am.”
Scales said he studied composition in college, which allowed him to turn steel drumming into what he considers his “brainchild” or a way he can put his music out into the world.
“In the earlier days it was me composing everything and getting the band to perform it,” Scales said. “It wasn’t until 2013 where I started to take more influences from people in the band, making it a much more collaborative effort.”
Jonathan Scales Fourchestra is described as a jazz fusion group based out of North Carolina, but its music has further meaning.
“We focus on the interplay of the instruments with a little less emphasis on singable melody and more of an emphasis on rhythmic playing,” Cody Wright, the bassist of the group, said. “It really is up to the listener to describe our sound.”
The group will be playing at Jackie O’s BrewPub, 24 W. Union St., Friday at 10 p.m.
“This’ll be our last Ohio show before we go on our world tour so I hope people will come out and give us a listen while we’re there,” Scales said.
He said the tour will span from Europe, to Costa Rica and Japan.
Before Wright joined the Fourchestra in 2011, he was a guitar player who occasionally played on the street. A long-time lover of the Blues, Wright was largely influenced by musician Stevie Ray Vaughan and guitarist Nuno Bettencourt from the band Extreme.
“That music was what got me to practice seven to eight hours a day.” Wright said, “It really hit my heart on a certain level.”
The guitarist found himself switching to the bass in order to join the band, which proved to be a challenge for him at first, but became a versatile skill.
“I was going from being a bedroom guitar player and playing every so often to all of a sudden playing a show every night as a bassist,” Wright said.
Chaisaray Schenck, the drummer for the group, said, the group’s music is the type that simulates how the lyrics came to be.
Musical styles associated with the steel drum usually bring up thoughts of cruise ships and Caribbean music, but Scales said the use of the steel pans in this way makes their sound more distinct.
“How the steel pans always roll in our music is definitely unorthodox,” Scales said. “Every member of the band is always trying to take their instrument to new heights which is what I think people gravitate towards during a show.”
Scales credits much of the band’s influence to Béla Fleck and The Flecktones, an instrumental band that relies on the quirky use of the banjo and several other instruments.
The group wants the people of Athens to immerse themselves into the complicated sounds they create, while also keeping an open ear and having a good time.
When performing, Schenck said, it’s important for the audience to embrace the energy the band feels on stage, and hone into that.
“I feel like I have something to say and if you’re in tune with it, it can make you happy and brighten your day.” Wright said. “It’s not a matter of playing crafty and crazy and showing off, it’s about speaking to people’s hearts.”