Surprising sounds on day 8

Friday at Jazz Fest was full of surprises. I took a more relaxed approach to the festival, stopping at random shows and not worrying about a schedule. I only attended three shows, but this more laid-back perspective allowed me to really soak up the community fostered by the festival. Met some really nice people and petted a few dogs. It was a nice day.

Jonathan Scales (Photo by Kelley Yost)

The Montage Music Hall was filled with people watching the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra (actually more of a “threechestra” for this performance). Led by steel drummer Jonathan Scales, the band includes drummer Maison Guidry and bassist E’Lon JD. If you are unfamiliar with the steel drum (also called steelpan or pan), you certainly know its sound. Typically used to give a song a “tropical” sound, the steel drum came from Trinidad and was somewhat ruined by its frequent use in popular music and soundtracks as a gimmick.

The Scales Fourchestra are a cutting-edge set and incorporate some truly memorable moments into their live set, including an explanation of the history of the steel drum and a breakdown of one of their most complex time signatures. The band made the crowd count on a 7/4 meter with a 6/8 bar thrown after seven bars. It’s really not as complex as it sounds, and the cascade of audience participation in Scales’ set proves it.

Jonathan Scales will shatter your preconceived expectations of the steel drum and leave you wanting more. Scales plays with an ease and fervor that will make you fall in love with the instrument.

Julia Nunes is an artist that I discovered recently, and by chance, she was to perform Friday at Jazz Fest, opening for the Bacon Brothers. Nunes, originally from Rochester, began her career as a musician on YouTube in 2007. YouTube would go on to become one of the biggest Internet platforms, but before Google made YouTube the monstrosity it is today, Nunes experienced a certain virality on the Internet with his ukulele covers, becoming a pioneer for the path to success of many emerging musicians.

Julia Nunes (Photo by Jamie Mohr)

Since then, Nunes has continued to release music, becoming one of the first successful singer-songwriters born of the internet age. Nunes played a fantastic set of songs stripped down with just her voice and ukulele, including an unreleased song called “Life Is Long”, which really hit the audience with its easy-to-grasp message yet nuanced perspective.

For the final songs, Nunes put away her uke and invited her father, Paul Nunes, to accompany her on the piano. This father-daughter dynamic was really special to see on stage, and their natural chemistry made the whole gig feel like a performance at a family reunion, which Julia Nunes mentioned often happens when she’s with her family. After a heartwarming rendition of one of my favorite Disney tunes, “Go The Distance,” I was able to spot a few audience members wiping tears from their eyes.

Big Lazy closed out day 8 for me with their moody black soundtrack-inspired jams. This band has a unique sound that could be the soundtrack to a lonely night walk or a murder investigation. Drummer Yuval Lion and bassist Andrew Hall set the scene while founder Stephen Ulrich cut the smoke with a guitar sound that complements the cinematic image. It was a joy to watch this trio play and interact with each other. If you’re more curious about their sound, check out what Frank De Blase had to say about the band during his Day 7 recap.

Unfortunately, we only have one day left of Jazz Fest. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another two years for the next one. Be sure to make the most of this last day!

Jess Williams is an intern at Rochester Beacon and a student at Ithaca College. All articles from the Rochester Beacon Jazz Fest are collected here.

The Beacon welcomes feedback from readers who adhere to our comments policy including the use of their real full name.

Comments are closed.