Flecktones friend: Scales’ work on the steel pan has been compared to Bela Fleck’s unique approach to the banjoJonathan Scales takes steel drum to the outer limitsThe sound of a steel drum usually transports listeners to the lazy confines of a thatched hut bar on a Caribbean oceanfront. But Jonathan Scales hears it differently. Rooted in classically trained composition, the Asheville-based Scales has used the steel drum—also known as the steel pan—to concoct his own brand of dynamic jazz fusion. With the driving rhythm section of his Fourchestra, Scales delivers fluid solos that often toe the line between melodic dexterity and old-school be-bop, free-form fury. Through eclectic instrumental arrangements, Scales’ refreshing innovation takes his instrument out of expected context and into a variety of sonic realms—from improvisational jazz to hip-hop-flavored funk. It’s enabled Scales to mesh in a range of music scenes, collaborating on his most recent album with saxophonist Jeff Coffin (Dave Matthews Band) and fiddler Casey Driesen and even landing an unexpected spot at Americana-bash Merlefest.BRO: How did you find the steel pan and realize its potential as a jazz instrument?JS: I played saxophone through college, but in high school I also started playing percussion. I went to Appalachian State University to be a composer, and when I got there, they had a steel band. My friends coerced me into being a part of it, and I fell in love from there.How do you describe the sound you are trying to create?I never set out to do something progressive on the steel drum. As a composer, the music that I hear in my head and want to write just happens to make the instrument sound progressive. As far as the complex side of things, I’m very influenced by modern 20th century composers like Igor Stravinsky and John Cage—guys who were pushing the envelope of orchestral music. Along with that, I’m also a young American who’s being influenced by popular music, everything from rap and hip-hop to rock. All of it kind of wraps together, and although it comes out complex, it’s also very familiar.Your latest album is called Character Farm & Other Short Stories. Do you view your instrumental compositions as stories?I give credit to Futureman of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, who’s always talked to me about writing in collective long form—the opposite of a pop artist who writes three-minute songs that don’t relate to each other. There is thought behind each of my pieces, so I wanted to put them together as a collective work. By calling it a set of short stories, it makes people approach it with that kind of focus. It’s not as cohesive as big Mozart work, but in my mind each of those pieces has a life of its own and they’re glued together with their own stories.What’s the process for composing on the steel pan? Before I wrote any notes for a tune like “Pan Grass” [from the 2007 album One-Track Mind], I just thought how it would be cool to create a bluegrass tune on the steel pan and mix it with a Caribbean jazz rhythm. Ideas like that often make up the foundation of my compositions. I don’t always write on the steel pan. Sometimes I’ll use a guitar or piano, or sometimes I’ll just sing a melody.Speaking of bluegrass, you played Merlefest earlier this year, known more for picking and singing than your style of eclectic jazz. How’d that go? It was overwhelming—in a good way. I had mixed feelings going into it, because I wasn’t sure how the crowd was going to react to our sound. But after our sets, people kept coming up to us and saying how much they liked what we were doing. Plus, during our set on the Hillside Stage, the Flecktones played with us, which was a dream come true.People in this region—especially in Boone and Asheville—have been really receptive to what I do, so this has been a really good area to foster a fan base.Mumford and Sons invade state streetBritish folk-rock heroes Mumford and Sons are turning the border town of Bristol into their own festival. On August 11, the band will bring their Gentlemen of the Road Stopover to State Street, located downtown on the Virginia/Tennessee line. The tour only has four stops in the U.S. (and just the one in the South), and will also feature sets by Dawes, Justin Townes Earle, Jeff the Brotherhood, the Apache Relay, and Simone Felice. Music will take place on an outdoor stage, as well as inside local clubs and theaters. gentlemenoftheroad.com
Islamic Jihad fired a further volley of rockets and mortars from Gaza towards Israel Monday, following a flare-up between the group and the Jewish state that triggered school, road and train closures in southern Israel. Israel’s army said in a statement that 20 “projectiles” had been fired from the Palestinian enclave on Monday, 18 of them intercepted by its air defence systems.Israeli police images showed that at least one of the projectiles landed in an empty children’s playground. On Sunday, in response to Israel’s killing of a militant along the border, Islamic Jihad launched more than 20 rockets from Gaza into Israel. Israel’s military said it responded to the rockets with airstrikes targeting “terror sites” throughout Gaza as well as near the Syrian capital. The Damascus strike killed two Islamic Jihad fighters and four other Iran-backed militants allied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor. Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria, mainly targeting government troops as well as allied Iranian forces and the Tehran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah. Israel rarely confirms responsibility for such strikes, but did so on Sunday, describing the target as a base “used as a hub” for Islamic Jihad activities in Syria. – Schools, roads closed -Israel took a series of precautions amid the rocket fire from Gaza.The education ministry ordered 65,000 students in towns near Gaza to stay home, postponing exams at universities in Ashkelon, Sderot and Netivot. The transport ministry cancelled trains between Ashkelon and Beersheba, a major southern city roughly 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Gaza. The military said Zikim Beach on the Mediterranean Sea just north of Gaza had been closed to visitors. Sunday’s fighting was the most intense between Israel and Islamic Jihad since November, when an Israeli airstrike killed Rasmi Abu Malhous, described as a senior group commander. That strike also killed nine members of a Palestinian family unrelated to the armed group, and was followed by a three-day conflict that left 35 Palestinians dead and more than 100 wounded, according to official figures. There were no Israeli fatalities.Islamic Jihad is allied with Hamas, the Islamist group that has controlled Gaza since 2007.But it has not accepted the informal truce Hamas has agreed with Israel in exchange for an easing of the crippling blockade on Gaza. Hamas and Israel last fought a full-scale war in 2014, but smaller flare-ups are relatively common.- Bulldozed -The latest escalation with Islamic Jihad came after Israel’s military said Sunday it had killed a militant in Gaza who had tried to plant an explosive device near the border fence. Israel later confirmed that it extracted the militant’s body with a bulldozer. A video emerged later on social media, which was authenticated by AFP, showing a bulldozer approaching a body while a group of young, apparently unarmed men, were trying to retrieve it. The sound of gunfire is heard and the men ultimately run away as the bulldozer scoops up the body.Israel’s hawkish Defence Minister Naftali Bennett has pursued a policy of retaining the bodies of militants from Gaza as bargaining chips to pressure Hamas, which has held those of two Israeli soldiers since 2014.Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, speaking before a weekly cabinet meeting, called the bulldozer incident “a heinous crime.””(Israel’s) occupation kills Palestinians in cold blood and with images that should shame humanity, and in violation of international law which Israel breaches day and night,” he said. Topics :
Meanwhile, AMF chief executive Johan Sidenmark warned of “dark clouds on the horizon”. The strong return the fund recorded between January and June – 8.1%, compared with 3.5% in the same period last year – was a sign of the turbulent state of financial markets, he said.Sidenmark added: “The stock markets have performed strongly during the spring, and our other assets have also developed relatively positively. This is of course welcome, but it should be borne in mind that the upswing is partly because signs of a weaker global economy lead to expectations of a less tight monetary policy.”AMF also reported a lower solvency ratio of 186%, compared with last year’s 198%. It said this was due to SEK11.2bn being set aside in 2018 to back guarantees.Premium income amounted to SEK15.5bn, compared with SEK14.7bn in the first half of 2018, with premiums for unit-linked insurance totalling SEK1.9bn, down from last year’s SEK2.3bn.Folksam rides out Swedbank scandalFolksam reported a 6.8% return in its life and pensions division in the first six months of this year, according to its interim report.Chief executive Jens Henriksson described the financial results as strong despite the drop in the Swedbank share price in the wake of a money-laundering scandal at the bank.Folksam was the second-largest shareholder in the bank when the scandal broke in March, with a 7% stake. Swedbank shares fell by 25% between 26 March and 29 March, before recovering slightly.The Swedish life and non-life insurance group said its total assets under management increased to SEK441bn, from SEK416bn at the end of June 2018, with group business in the six-month period mainly driven by the pensions side.Continuing its work against money laundering while keeping costs down was one area of focus Folksam highlighted, along with digitisation and compliance.Henriksson said the firm’s total premium volume grew by SEK400m during the reporting period to SEK35bn, while costs were beginning to decrease, he said.Folksam’s group business growth between January and June came primarily from collectively-agreed occupational pensions within KPA Pension and Folksam LO Pension, the company said. Swedish blue-collar pension fund AMF plans to invest at an earlier stage in companies’ development, and stay invested for longer, according to CIO Thomas Flodén.In the SEK649bn (€61.5bn) fund’s interim results statement, Flodén said: “We want to invest to a greater extent early in companies, we want to stay for a long time and are happy to contribute to the transformation of the economy.”As a traditional pension manager, AMF had a long investment horizon and a high degree of freedom to act, which it wanted to make use of, he said.Flodén also highlighted the fund’s recent forestry investments, which included increasing its stake in Swedish firm SCA and becoming the majority shareholder in Bergvik Skog Öst. On sustainability goals, he cited investments in two Swedish firms with sustainable characteristics during the first half of the year: battery manufacturer Northvolt and solar cell developer Exeger.
The age-old belief is that the biggest stars step up in tournament play. The MLS is Back tournament is seemingly exempt from any form of age-old belief, given the act that it is a hastily invented tournament made in reaction to a worldwide pandemic. There are few, if any, longstanding beliefs that will apply to whatever mayhem will occur on the field in Orlando over the next month.Still, it was somewhat fitting that a player who might just be the biggest name playing in MLS today kick-started that tournament and, ultimately provided a memorable moment to give this competition life. Wednesday night’s tournament-opening clash between Orlando City and Inter Miami, a match that was overshadowed by everything that was going on off the field, was won by a late winner from Nani, who fired home in the seventh minute of stoppage time for the hosts.DeCOURCY: Nani was ‘always’ going to playIt wasn’t the most awe-inspiring match nor the most watchable, but thanks to Nani’s magic, it was one that saw Orlando strike the first blow against its newfound rival.Wednesday’s contest, in many ways, faded to the background because of everything that existed outside it. The people inside the MLS bubble at Walt Disney World are still figuring out how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, with FC Dallas already removed from the competition and Nashville SC perhaps soon to follow because of multiple cases. Then there was the prematch focus on the Black Lives Matter movement as players representing every MLS club gathered for an emotional display.Eventually, though, soccer was played and there was some form of normalcy for a few minutes. It was hard to know what to expect but, by and large, the teams provided a scrappy, back-and-forth match. There were moments where it looked as if the teams hadn’t played in four months, but there were also moments where this felt like a game.After a fairly quiet first half, the first of those moments came from Inter Miami, which opened the second half with a perfectly worked team goal. It was the second goal in the team’s short history, with Juan Agudelo stabbing home a cross from Victor Ulloa to give Miami the lead.Shortly after, though, the life was sucked out of the already crowd-less stadium. Inter Miami defender Andres Reyes went down to the ground, visibly struggling to breathe, after taking an elbow from Orlando City forward Dom Dwyer. Reyes was in obvious discomfort for several minutes, and a delayed medical response created a scary situation. By the time Reyes was carted off the field, the excitement from Agudelo’s goal was gone and an already emotional night reached a new level. — Goal (@goal) July 9, 2020To that point, Nani had been held relatively quiet. Orlando had fared well, maintaining a bulk of the ball, but had done little with it. That remained the case until the 70th minute when the former Manchester United star provided his first moment of magic.After beating his man down the left side, Nani drove toward the goal line and whipped in a cross. That cross weaved its way through the box and toward a sliding Chris Muller, who tapped home the equalizer.That turned out to be a mere warmup for the Portuguese star, who then scored the game-winner deep into the stoppage time caused by Reyes’ injury. It wasn’t a vintage Nani goal or some otherworldly display. Rather, it was a case of right place, right time as he pounced on a loose ball in the box and rifled a shot past Luis Robles to seal Orlando’s victory.It was exactly the result that MLS would have wanted, even if some of the steps toward getting there weren’t ideal. MLS is the first men’s league back in action in the U.S., giving the league a spotlight that doesn’t often exist. While the pregame solidarity will likely be the overarching talking point, Nani scoring a stoppage-time winner is surely a fitting start to a tournament that promises to provide the unexpected.There are still plenty of questions, especially as the coronavirus continues to impact play. And there are still plenty of games to be played, hopefully, as the focus will at some point turn toward soccer and the normalcy that comes with it. This match was the start of a tournament and rivalry that MLS hopes will get better as it goes along. At some point, these two teams will meet in a venue and scenario worthy of the occasion.Wednesday’s clash was a unique, unforeseen beginning, one in which a global star celebrated victory in a lifeless stadium.Nani and Orlando came out on top on this warm night at Disney, even if no one was there to see it.