NOTE: This blog entry frist appeared in July 2010
by Chad Campbell, senior producer
Have you ever heard someone complain that they were meant to be born in a different era or another decade? Well it seems like Jon Cleary was born in the wrong place. But as he told us, if he actually was a New Orleans native, he might have been obsessed with British music instead. Cleary was born in 1962 and grew up in a musical family in Kent, England. One of his uncles used to visit New Orleans frequently and he would come back with stories about the culture of the place - and with records by local legends like Professor Longhair. As soon as he could manage it, Cleary took his guitar and moved to The Big Easy. He quickly determined that the piano was a better fit, so he watched and learned for a couple of years, teaching himself the city’s keyboard stlye. Cleary has now been in New Orleans for more than 30 years, easily the majority of his life and he lives in Bywater, the city’s “last forgotten, old funky neighborhood.” He lives above an old hardware store and his home studio shares the downstairs storefront space with his seamstress wife’s costume design workshop. Bob sat next to Cleary at one of his FOUR pianos and got a New Orleans musical history lesson as Cleary answered questions about himself and played samples from local legends like Jelly Roll Morton, James Booker and Professor Longhair. Here’s a video of one of the demos he gave us.
Cleary has soaked it all in, including a love for Cuban piano music, a close musical cousin of New Orleans style, and plays it through his own musical filter. He could probably play anything on piano, but prefers “funky and syncopated” with his regular band, The Absolute Monster Gentleman. But right now Cleary is touring with Piano, Bass and Drums, a new side project he assembled which delivers a stripped down sound. They’re currently touring the UK, then Cleary returns for a solo show in New Orleans on August 11, then he takes PB&D to Brazil for a few shows.
Click here to see more pictures of our first New Orleans adventure.