Artist Spotlight: Jordan Scannella - World Touring Bass Player, Producer and Em'Cee
Performing under his stage name Jorscan, Brooklyn based Jordan Scannella is a professional bass player, composer, producer and Em’Cee who has toured the world spanning the spectrum of music, from house music to jazz and beyond in a host of successful bands. Having backed an all-star cast of musicians, his solo work combines elements of soul, rare groove and hip-hop...
And he was the first Fusion gig bag endorsee.
“I first met the Fusion Team in 2008 at Shanghai Music Expo, the largest Music Industry trade fair in Asia”, says Jordan. “I really needed a decent gig bag for a new bass I had acquired and the Fusion products looked fantastic. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were a brand new company and I was the first artist to endorse a Fusion gig bag.
Nicole (Szekeres) and Amanda (Wheatley) were so sweet to hook me up, so I wanted to repay them properly…. So I wrote this jingle and made a music video riding around Shanghai with my Fusion bag.”
At the time, I was in Shanghai to perform at the House of Blues and Jazz with a blues power trio called The Sam Hooper Group. Sam played the guitar and sang, with Akira Nakamura on drums and me on bass. 2008 was our third contract at the club, but we also played in 2004 and 2006. We had a heavy schedule; 3 sets a night, 6 nights a week for 5 months playing classics by many of the great blues-rock bands like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I don’t think I will ever have chops like I had after that contract.
After our second tour finished in Shanghai, we headed out to Okinawa where drummer Akira Nakamura was born. Not concerned with the consequences, I decided to bring with me the smallest pinch of marijuana. Upon arrival, I became acquainted with a drug-sniffing canine in the baggage terminal. Japanese drug laws are, of course, a lot different than those in the western world. I was incarcerated for 67 days.
It sounds bad, and it was bad, to have one's freedom and mobility completely vanquished. But once I realized that I was in a safe place and I had a deadline to get out, it became a laboratory for self-improvement and reflection. I wasn’t allowed a musical instrument, but I was permitted a pencil and paper. So every day I sat alone in my cell, writing melodies, bass lines and lyrics. Many of those songs appeared on my self-titled debut, JORSCAN.
The whole experience is something that I really don’t mind talking about it. It provided me with abundant time to write, reflect and I suppose, rehabilitate… I actually look back at it fondly because of the productivity and the consistency that it allowed. I think musicians often struggle with regularity; writing and practising every day is hard to do when you have a busy lifestyle. I can certainly relate to that. Sometimes you just have to lock yourself in a room! (This is not an endorsement for jail time, kids….)
Originally from Cincinnati and after attending college in Boston, Jordan has since moved to Brooklyn, New York. Like so many professional musicians, Jordan was educated at one of the world’s most famous music institutes along the way, Berklee College of Music.
“It’s amusing to see how many of the contacts on my phone are Berklee related”, says Jordan. “I’ve been living in Brooklyn for about ten years now and have a network of musician friends from my Berklee days. There seems to be this natural migratory pattern from Boston to bigger music scenes like New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville. We all keep in touch and help provide for each other in the world of music.”
These days, Jordan’s work diary is rammed and whilst he can still hold his own in any rocky blues bands, learning how to sight read and effortlessly play terrifying demi-semi-quaver bass lines at an early age, has proven invaluable.
“I grew up listening to a lot of music from jazz to hip-hop, as well as attending an arts-focused high school, the School For Creative And Performing Arts in Cincinnati. At SCPA, double bass, jazz and musical theatre were embedded in my daily routine. Music theatre was interesting; it wasn’t as though I would go home and listen to Phantom of the Opera, but it was something I really enjoyed and has ultimately helped my career.
I’ve recently secured a position as bassist for a touring Broadway musical called ‘Hamilton’. It’s about the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, re-enacting the founding of the United States and the American Revolution, with lyrics and music by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The music is really killing; the way the story unwinds both lyrically and compositionally is nothing short of genius.
There are about 20 cities on this tour and we’re performing at each one for at least 3 weeks, with 8 shows a week. We’ll end on a Sunday in one city and then start on the Tuesday in the next city, so it’s a full-on schedule. Touring of this nature is new to me, I’m curious to see how it all works logistically. I’ll actually get the chance to live in a different city for 3 weeks at a time, including Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. There’ll be some resemblance to a normal life, an actual chance to get to know a place, rather than the average one-off touring that many musicians are accustomed to.
It’s a challenging role for me as the bass player, it’s almost like an opera, where I’m playing the entire time on a variety of basses. I have a 5 string electric bass for hip-hop and syncopated funk, a hollow bodied pick-bass for some Beatle-esque songs, synth bass and upright bass for the more orchestral sections. It’s exciting for me. I enjoy getting to know a piece of music really well, inside and out. In the details lies the beauty. That said, we’ll see how I am after playing the same songs for five months every night!” Jordan laughs.
“The tour starts in Seattle and we’ll rehearse for one week in the theatre prior to the opening. This is unique for Broadway. When I subbed on shows before, you don’t get a chance to rehearse your parts. You go to the show, listen the music, learn it from the book and prepare yourself. When it’s time to come and play, you have to nail it. This was my experience subbing on The Lion King on Broadway here in New York. I was shadowing bassist Tom Barney, who’s been in that show for about 15 years or so. But Tom’s resume is extensive, he’s played with them all; from Michael Jackson to Steely Dan and Miles Davis. Tom’s the truth, a real bad dude.”
You are obviously in high demand as a professional bass player, what does a player of your calibre reach for when it’s time to relax?
“That’s a good question, I don’t really sit still”, explains Jordan. “I’ve been busy since 2010 touring and recording with Tortured Soul, a trio that specializes in soulful house music. Isamu MacGregor plays keys, me on bass and John- Christian Urich on drums and vocals. Christan is the band leader, principal songwriter/producer. Tortured Soul actually operates in a world that’s occupied mostly by producers and DJs with a club based audience. We try and replicate the energy of a DJ, where the music never stops and has a consistent groove. The biggest difference is it’s all live, no loops or triggers.
Tortured Soul has released three studio albums. The most recent, Hot For Your Love Tonight, I played bass on. There are also a lot of remixes floating around as well, many done by the band itself. As we live on opposite coasts, we don’t get that much opportunity to record live together. Christan will record some ideas at his home in Los Angeles, then send the tracks to me to add bass.
In addition to Jorscan, the Hamilton musical, and Tortured Soul, I’m also the bass player in the band People’s Champs, which is led by my friend Alex Asher on trombone. Currently, we are an 8 piece with horns, guitar, bass, drums, keys and lead singer. The band has evolved from an Afrobeat instrumental collective that I played in with Alex, to a more nuanced, song-based group.
The songs can be described as globally influenced indie dance music with consciously minded lyrics. There are a variety of grooves, some with African influence and others that are more R&B flavoured. It’s a really fun project which I feel reflects a lot of the energy within the Brooklyn music scene. We released our last album called “American Dreamers” in 2015. In 2017, we launched a music video for the remix “No Prisoners (Hostages)”
NO PRISONERS VIDEO (PEOPLE’S CHAMPS) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk6vaE3k1DM peopleschamps.com facebook.com/jorscan
People’s Champs is going into the studio in January 2018, to make our second full length record, just before I leave for the Hamilton tour. We have locked down Dreamland Studios, which is upstate just outside of Woodstock, New York. It’s an old converted church where you literally record in the sanctuary, with the stained glass windows and 30 foot ceilings. The pulpit is the control room! There’s really a good vibe in Woodstock; a lot of great musicians live in the area. You can feel the music up there.”
You seem to be on the road a lot, are you a ‘burger on the hoof’ dude or are you food conscious?
“Ah, funny you should ask that”, laughs Jordan and explains, “My friend David Bailis, whose the bassist in Pimps Of Joytime, was forever speaking to me about eating sensibly on the road. He’s an extremely health conscious guy and started a website/podcast called Tourganic. David among others has certainly helped me to be a more healthy and conscious person. I’ve been vegetarian now for 5 years. This does prove challenging every time I tour places like South Africa, where I’ve been many times with Tortured Soul. They’re big BBQ fans, they even have National BBQ Day. It’s the cultural significance of food and how it conflicts with ones dietary restriction that can be interesting….
South Africa definitely comes to mind when I think of some of the most amazing countries I’ve toured. I’ve been 6 times now; they’re some of the world’s friendliest people. Soulful House music is almost regarded as pop music over there, it’s not uncommon to hear Tortured Soul records played at 4 pm during the rush hour traffic. We’ve also done some shows in Lesotho, which is a kingdom surrounded by South Africa. The last one was in a huge soccer stadium, an overnight concert with 25,000 people. I enjoy watching the African audiences, they certainly don’t sit and politely clap. Music is so deeply rooted in their culture and when they move to the music, I begin to understand how it should feel. Their groove awareness is deep.”
When you tour, do you take the full bass rig or is it all hired in?
“Most of the time, especially with Tortured Soul, the amps are backlined for us. I just take a small pedal board with a few effects; octave, an auto wah pedal and an overdrive. I travel with one bass, recently a Lakland PJ bass.
All of this rests comfortably in my Urban Fusion gig bag. There’s never been a problem on flights, the bass is safe inside. I’ll just loosen the strings and we’re ready to go. I feel totally comfortable with this bag. You’d have to jump on the neck of the bass to break it, it’s really well made.
The back straps are great. I can often be seen pedalling my bike across the Manhatten Bridge with my bass on my back.”
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