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På skive


«Sweet Travels»

The Norwegian quintet Honest John has been since its inception in 2012 the brainchild of reeds player and composer Klaus Ellerhusen Holm, one of the busiest musicians in Oslo’s modern jazz scene and a member of Paal Nilssen Love’s Large Unit, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten Quintet and Nakama. Holm composed the nine new pieces for the firth album of Honest Jogn, recorded at Monkeybar studio in Skarnes in December 2020 and June 2021 by the band’s drummer Erik Nylander.

Accordionist Kalle Moberg replaced violinist Ole-Henrik Moe, and he joins guitarist Kim Johannesen, double bass player Ola Høyer, Nylander and Holm. Sweet Travels cements and expands Jonest John’s unconventional, slightly weird music, a unique kind of Nordic modern jazz matched with folk music and country and bluegrass. No surprise when you learn that this band was inspired by the Dutch jazz scene and musicians associated with the ICP orchestra, and collaborated on its third album, Treem, with Dutch reeds master Ab Baars (Clean Feed, 2018). The cover artwork by Danish artist Zven Baslev hints at this playful spirit (and comes as a lithography print with the physical album).

But Honest John was also inspired by Brazilian Jazz and Samba and contemporary classical composers like Anton Webern and Salvatore Schiarrino. Sweet Travels also introduces into the open and inclusive vision of Honest John elements of microtonality, a vintage drum machine from 1969, and songs that are built around asymmetrical repetition. All of Holm’s songs were composed for the distinct musical personalities of Honest John and developed and arranged by the band in a manner that highlights its tight and empathic dynamics.

The front line of Holm and Moberg, who play together also in Large Unit, often sounds like a two-headed sonic entity and both complete and extend each other’s ideas in an immediate and almost telepathic understanding, knowing inside out all possible sonic tricks and games. Johannesen’s guitar-banjo intensifies the strange country and bluegrass edges while the percolating rhythm section of Høyer and Nylander deepens the swinging, rhythmic patterns. But, eventually, Sweet Travels is about Holm’s wise and engaging compositional ideas, with the right dose of provocative spices, that demand repeated listening to explore their many secrets.

Eyal Hareuveni

Kalle Moberg (accordion), Kim Johannesen (guitar, guitar-banjo), Ola Høyer (double bass), Erik Nylander (drums, percussion, Roland TR-77 drum machine), Klaus Ellerhusen Holm (alto saxophone, Bb-clarinet)

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