It was the mid-’90s, and the group of guys Eldon T Jones had been playing music with moved on to other things. Eldon had to keep the music inside of him alive. He discovered he had a real musical connection with his keyboard-playing brother-in-law “Smooth” Patrick Cooper, and the two started jamming at home and riffing off each other’s ideas. Eldon’s younger brother Anthony Jones, whom Eldon had encouraged to play music, kept the beat on drums. It was at these jam sessions that ideas for the songs “N’Touch” and “Pieces of a Puzzle” were conceived by Patrick and arranged by the group.
Soon the three of them started playing at church events along with other musicians who didn’t stay in their band for long. Eldon, Anthony, and Patrick were developing their chops and ready for a bigger band and a bigger stage. Guitarist David Allen, who had graduated from Brown University, connected with Eldon through the church in Portland and brought his screaming guitar solos to the group. Eldon’s ears also took notice of the guys Anthony played with at Jefferson High. Soon Anthony’s schoolmates Darius Fentress (percussion) and “Funky” Chris Turner (keyboard) were drafted to the N Touch crew. Auditions were held to find the missing piece, and it was decided that Chris’s friend Donovan Fairley would be N Touch’s bass player.
Amazing music was created at N Touch rehearsals at the Jones residence in North Portland, but every band needs their break. It was E.D. Mondaine who invited N Touch to perform on Friday nights at his coffee shop Friday’s. Once word got out about the music at Friday’s, crowds would line up around the building waiting to get in, and the Oregonian chronicled these shows. Gregory Brown helped the band become a business, took on management responsibilities, and was the executive producer of their 2001 album N’Touch.
Ask the guys, and they’ll tell you the most memorable part of the early years of N Touch was hanging out, being friends, and laughing it up. On stage, the group had the chance to open for Tower of Power, Earth, Wind & Fire, Angelique Kidjo, and Boney James. They also performed on BET Jazz hosted by Mike Phillips and recorded a special locally on the show “On the Set” through Portland Cable Access.
In the early 2000s, members of N Touch started to split off and move to other states and pursue other dreams. Guys would often filter in and out of the lineup over the coming years as Eldon found other top musicians in town and continued to mentor young musicians by recruiting them to his group. In 2018, the original N Touch septet got back together for a magnificent one-off concert.