The steelpan and its sound have become almost the cliché of Caribbean fantasy and escape, but in the hands of musicians with a determination to move away from that old trope, the music can challenge listeners to re-imagine the unique timbre of this creole invention and its canon. North Carolina native Jonathan Scales revels in odd metres and radical time signature changes to produce music for the instrument that can be complex, intriguing and ultimately funky enough for listeners to bop their heads. On this new album, the bass guitar serves as a fulcrum for a rhythmic chase as the steelpan matches it on some tracks like, “This Is The Last Hurrah”, or plays counterpoint standing in awe of the superb musicianship of the likes of Oteil Burbridge, Victor Wooten and MonoNeon on “Fake Buddha's Inner Child” and “The Trap”. Scales's musical hero, banjoist Béla Fleck guests, showcasing the adaptability of the steelpan in musical settings born outside the archipelago.
Jazz in the Islands magazine is proud to announce the launch of its podcast series Island Jazz Chat, featuring conversations with Caribbean jazz and pan jazz musicians based in the islands and the diaspora. In our premiere episode, editor Nigel A. Campbell chats with steelpan jazz pioneer, Rudy "Two Left" Smith. Listen below, and subscribe for future episodes of the podcast.