Johno
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Johno

Athens, Attica, Greece | Established. Jan 01, 2019

Athens, Attica, Greece
Established on Jan, 2019
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"GREECE: A Different Path: The Mediterranean-Hued, Poetic Pleasures of Johno’s The Road Not Taken"

It’s not always easy to tell where a road begins. For producer, musician, and songwriter Johno, the road to his first solo album The Road Not Taken began imperceptibly. Its unconventional path proved long, winding, and musically breathtaking, embracing music and musicians from around the Mediterranean and Ireland and poetry from Shakespeare to Mahmoud Darwish.

The wild trip that led to The Road Not Taken might have begun the moment Johno got his first producer gig in Albania or in the West Bank. It might have started that moment in a library in Tunisia, when Johno sketched out a setting for a beloved poem with a local friend and violinist. It may have started decades before, when his parents, Irish-born, London-based, shared verses close to their hearts, quietly inspiring their son.

This poetic inheritance unfolded for Johno over time, revealing hidden melodies and songs. “When you read these poems, they have these beautiful meters,” he reflects. “You just have to discover the songs in them. Much like Michelangelo said about stones, that they were all waiting to have a sculpture carved out them, these poems were begging to become musical compositions.”

But the compositions he discovered were radical departures from the poem’s origins, suggesting styles and locations for recording far off the beaten path. Johno drew on a decade of close collaboration and recording experience around the Balkans, North Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey, as well as his ancestral stomping grounds of Ireland, to find astonishing arrangements for the songs that sprang from poems.

As companions to his original pieces, Johno chose several songs that fit the theme and resonated with the other works, and heard them through the same unconventional filter. “It was important for me to have a few key covers take a trip,” he explains. “So I didn’t just want to do the Beatles track as a jazz number. Instead, I put it in ⅞ and recorded it in Jordan with a Turkish orchestra. I recorded a really straightforward John Denver song with a Tunisian orchestra with two hundred tracks of instruments, vocal harmonies, and percussion. I loved these songs and simply heard them differently.”

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Johno was trained as a jazz musician but found himself increasingly in the recording booth on the other side of the glass. His skills were coupled with a growing fascination with the sounds, styles, and musical thought he discovered in other cultures. Over time, project after project came to him. As he worked with more and more well-established musicians in far-flung locales, their music and craft began to seep into his own writing.

It wasn’t, however, until recently that he resolved to step in front of the mic. Johno realized he had enough material to make his first album, songs he’d built up over years of travel and homecoming. The basis for these pieces was the poems he knew from childhood, as well as poems by icons like Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish that he discovered along this journey. They influenced the way he crafted music.

“Like many writers, I sometimes start with a riff, but to work with these poems, I chose a more theatrical way. You take the poem and read it really slowly, repeatedly and theatrically. it’s embarrassing to even demonstrate,” he laughs. “After you do that, you have the scale. You hear, for example, that it’s kind of major but it has a flat two, which suggests a certain mode you’ll hear in Arabic music. That scale is there, at the back of your mind, and it just blends with cadence of the poem.”

Once a song had emerged, Johno decided where the song could best be recorded, often fitting sessions into his travels as a producer. He invited his favorite musicians to join him, from American jazz heavyweights to Arabic hotshots. “Each song lent itself to the location. If you’re recording something like ‘Country Road,’ in ⅞ with Arabic riffs, it needs to be recorded in Tunis. Byron’s ‘Made for Loving,’ took a famous Arabic melody for the chorus...You can’t do that and record it in Germany!” Johno exclaims. “That’s why it was recorded in Jordan and Turkey. ‘Homeward Bound,’ the only song about returning home, had to be in Ireland.”

The resulting tracks are steeped in the sounds and approaches of these places, the bold horns of the Balkans, the elegant modal melodies of the Eastern Mediterranean, the rippling percussion lines. “It’s more than influence, really; the feeling of the place where I recorded--Jordan, Tunis, Ireland--is baked in there,” Johno notes. “The album wound up weaving in rhythms in 13, 7, 10, 5, as well as Arabic and Turkish modes, North African tonality. I’m lucky to know the best musicians in each place, because I’ve already had a chance to work with them.”

Some of these talents contributed directly to the composition process, as in the case of “If,” the popular Kipling poem. Johno handed the poem over to a close friend and talented musician Nikos Mixalodimitrakis, who lives not far from Johno in Greece. What came back was a wonderful surprise, a version in 5/4 with serious Greek traditional flavor. “If I had tackled it alone, it would never have sounded anything like it,” Johno says. “I love giving something to people you trust and then getting it back and being delighted.” This different, delightful approach to classic poetry promises to take listeners and literary buffs along for the moving ride.

50% of the album’s earnings will be put back to community cultural development in Johno’s various philanthropic collaborations
About

Johno is a multi-instrumental, omni-style musician and producer. Originally a Jazz performer, now heavily influenced by Classical music, Arabic Music, African Nuba, Rai, Gnawa, and Berber traditions, and Balkan music.

Johno works with local artists in quite a number of countries and fuses seamlessly between traditional melodies and beats to advanced

Jazz harmonies, and classical counterpoint. Now working on his first ever original album, an ethno-jazz project evolving around composed English Poetry from Shakespeare to Robert Frost, and trying to help the world in what ever small way he can.

Johno lives on the Greek coast, and spends a fair portion of his time travelling and recording in Europe, Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle-east.

Johno is the director of the newly established label RNT Records, and the exciting new Delia Arts Foundation. - worldjazznews.blogspot.com


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Johno is a former Jazz performer greatly influenced by various local traditional music like Classical, Arabic, African Nuba, Rai, Gnawa, Berber traditions, and Balkan music altogether. With his great talent and creativity, Johno is now a multi-instrumental, omni-style musician and producer whose work turned out to be a wonderful infusion of Jazz, Blues, Folk, Classical Music, as well as the traditional music that inspired him.

Johno lives on Greek coast, but spends a fair portion of his time travelling to Europe, Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle-east where he works with local artists in different countries turning traditional melodies and beats to advanced Jazz harmonies, and classical counterpoints


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