Jon Cleary
Jon Cleary’s love and affinity for New Orleans music goes back to the rural British village of Cranbrook, Kent, where he was raised in a musical family. Cleary’s maternal grandparents performed under the respective stage names Sweet Dolly Daydream and Frank Neville. Upon attaining double-digit age Cleary became avidly interested in funk-filled music, buying records and intently studying their labels and album covers in order to glean as much information as possible. As soon as he was old enough to leave school in 1980 Cleary took off for the Crescent City. When his flight touched down a taxi took him straight to the Maple Leaf, a funky Uptown bar which then featured such New Orleans piano legends as Roosevelt Sykes and James Booker. Cleary got a job painting the club, and lived a few doors down for a time, allowing him unlimited free access to all the great New Orleans music performed within. One night when James Booker didn’t show up, the club’s manager insisted that Jon get up and play before the paying customers demanded a refund. Thrust suddenly into the spotlight Jon was ready, willing and able to play his first paying gig in New Orleans – and although he had come to town as a guitarist, this debut was also the first step of his career as a pianist. Beyond Cleary’s considerable skills as a tunesmith he is equally renowned around the globe as an accomplished keyboardist and guitarist, and a deeply soulful vocalist. Cleary’s thirty-five years of intensive hands-on work on the Crescent City scene has made him a respected peer of such New Orleans R&B icons. Cleary uses a century’s worth of pianistic brilliance as a point of departure to forge his own unique and eclectic style. Cleary’s sound incorporates such far-flung influences as ‘70s soul, gospel music, funk, Afro-Caribbean (and especially Afro-Cuban) rhythms and more.