Strange News from Mars

Norwegian guitarist, composer, painter and surrealist Jon Larsen has recorded a concept album with some of the musicians from Frank Zappa’s famed band The Mothers of Invention. Strange news for Mars tells the story of the spacecraft Big Ear III’s voyage to the red planet.

Jon Larsen, 2007 (Foto: Ann Iren Ødeby/Jazznytt)

Underway captain Zurcon and his crew are about to solve three of the greatest mysteries to mankind. Only hearing the record itself will reveal what these are, but needless to say, extra terrestrial intelligence is a key here.

The album is written, arranged and produced by Jon Larsen in its entirety. It was recorded in Los Angeles in March with Tommy Mars, Bruce Fowler, Jimmy Carl Black and Arthur Barrow. Strange News also features musical stunts from Norwegian musical dignitaries such as Knut Reiersrud, (guitar/harmonica), Rob Waring (marimba), Ole Morten Vågan (bass), and Håkon Mjåset Johansen (drums).
Zappa’s old musicians were so taken by the project and the sessions that they immediately requested a sophomore. And now the plan as to make it a trilogy! Tours are already in the planning.

Jon Larsen is best known perhaps from his legendary Django-ensemble Hot Club de Norvège, which he founded way back in 1979. The band has had an astonishing success in Norway and worldwide, releasing 25 albums and collaborating, across genres, with elite musicians and all kinds of ensembles and orchestras.

Larsen is a guitarist, composer and painter. Painting was his first vocation, and from studying Dali and surrealism in the late 70s he eventually started infusing much of that spirit into music, especially when he took up composing in the nineties. In his blog he explains that: “Discovering the short way between improvisation, which I’ve been doing all my life, and composition, was also a discovery of what had really been going on in the Zappa universe to which I was always so drawn. Understanding more how that remarkable sphere functioned co-determined my take on composition, and the freshness and enthusiasm I feel towards composing now is based on that same kind of attitude.


What joyous luck then that Zappa’s old crew, the individual members of which Larsen always so admired, should approach him with a desire to play on his Mars concept. -For this is what happened when Larsen went over to LA to start the sessions; they heard of the project and wanted to play.

Surrealism is a key word for Larsen, as it was for Zappa himself, and even if the compositions are all Larsen’s, there is no doubt that the spirit of Zappa infuses the album. This is evident in the air of the compositions, but most of all it is the presence of The Mothers of Invention which Larsen eventually gave key roles in the conceptual make up of the record.


Strange news from mars will be the first release of the new label Zonic Entertainment. The album is out in Norway august 20th and elsewhere on September 3rd.

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