USA – On PILLAR composer and steel pannist Jonathan Scales mines his emotional landscape to create eight songs that are as honest and evocative as they are intricate and complex. With his band, the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra (consisting of himself, bass player E’lon Jordan-Dunlap, and drummer Maison Guidry), along with a host of stellar guest artists including Béla Fleck, Oteil Burbridge, Victor Wooten, Jeff Coffin, Weedie Braimah, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Shaun Martin and MonoNeon, Scales creates music that will please serious jazz fusion aficionados, but that is also packed with ear-wormy melodies and infectious rhythms that keep it accessible for everyone else.
The first time I met Jonathan Scales was in 2014 when I interviewed him for Glide Magazine. He talked about his song “Lurkin’”, which was a tribute to, and written in the style of, his musical hero, innovative banjo player, Béla Fleck. Since then I’ve followed his career closely, even hosting a couple of house shows for him over the years.
The quality of his music that first got my attention, and what we talked about in the first interview, was his ability to tell stories and express emotions through instrumental music. On PILLAR this quality is even more pronounced. There are a lot of good ways to listen to music, but for this album one especially good way is to let the name of each song serve as a story-starter and then see where your imagination leads you as you listen.
We took a deep dive into most of the songs on PILLAR. He talked about the back-story of some of the songs, his techniques, and, as a self-professed music nerd, some of the unusual ways that he composed and arranged the music.