About ME

Jonno is one of the most original and sensitive drummers on South Africa’s exploding music scene. His sound and approach attract attention wherever he plays and in whatever context he finds himself. Drumming is in his blood. His father, the late Robert Sweetman, was a great drummer who played professionally in the 60’s and 70’s. He was reluctant the first time Jonno asked him for a lesson, given the paternal association of drums with sex, drugs and rock and roll. Graciously putting aside his scepticism he gave the 13-year-old Jonno that lesson – and it all began. Having matriculated Jonno attained a diploma in Marketing at Varsity College in Port Elizabeth. He also completed a Trinity School of Music Grade 8 for drum kit with merit. Growing up in a small town there were few traditional opportunities to study music. This scarcity of formal influences turned out to be a contributing factor to his originality. As a teenager Jonno honed the skills of stamina, contextual awareness and the ability to react to a quickly changing environment as much on his surfboard (he competed at provincial level) as behind his traps. His introduction to the great adventure of jazz occurred in the company of equally wide-eyed and wide-eared small town musicians who, in the absence of peer competition, revelled in the variety, freedom and discipline of the form that they found in the recordings of the masters - past and present. In his early twenties Jonno had the opportunity to travel and was able to take lessons from some of the greatest drummers in the world. Erik Smith (Norway), Jeff Ballard (USA) and Kevin Gibson (SA) were some of the highlights for him. He remains very committed to self-study and is constantly on the lookout for new study material. In the decade-plus since, Jonno has worked with New York-based saxophonist Sam Thomas, US guitarist and celebrated proponent of Thelonious Monk’s music, Gary Wittner, as well as trumpeter Gordon Vernick (US) and innovative saxophonist Nils Berg (Sweden). He has also played and recorded with top South African jazz artists including Buddy Wells, Marcus Wyatt, Mark Fransman, Herbie Tsoaeli, Rus Nerwich, Jason Reolon, Alvin Dyers, Shannon Mowday and Feya Faku to name a few. Jonno is currently a member of the Kyle Shepherd trio, Reza Khota Quartet and Buddy Wells quartet as well as the Albert Frost Trio. He performed at the 2008 through 2014 Cape Town International Jazz Festivals, the Standard Bank Youth Jazz Festival (Grahamstown) and Joy of Jazz (Johannesburg) and toured Europe with Jonathan Crossley in 2009, 2010 and 2012. The Kyle Shepherd Trio (the iconoclastic Shepherd was Standard Bank youth jazz artist in 2014) recently toured Europe, China and Canada playing at world class festivals including the Montreal Jazz Festival and Tianjin International Jazz Festival. The group’s growing importance as a representative of the new voice of postmodern Africa was underlined by their invitation – along with Benin-born New York -based luminary Lionel Loueke – to play and record under the title Sound Portraits from Contemporary Africa for the SWR NEWJazz Meeting 2016. Previous participants have included Roscoe Mitchell, Johnny Dyani, Kenny Wheeler and Bobby McFerrin. Displaying a characteristic openness to all authentic musical forms, Jonno also performs with Albert Frost , Gerald Clark and occasionally Dan Patlansky -three of South Africa’s best-established blues artists. He recorded with Clark on his 2016 release “The Golden Goose” and with Frost on “The Wake Up”. The Wake Up was awarded best rock album of 2016 at the South African Music Awards. The logistically challenging choice to survive as a full-time musician in the city of Cape Town has given Jonno the opportunity to work with all these great musicians. In response, he is growing in his skill and finding deeper resonance with his art form every day. He is also a gifted teacher with a decade of part-time drum tuition experience. Being largely self-taught has inspired him to develop some of his own unique teaching methods. He has given workshops at Marshall Music, Paul Bothners Music and UCT Music College – leaving participants motivated and deeply inspired.