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Jon Cleary

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 as Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. Toussaint, in fact, took time from his busy schedule to write most of the horn arrangements for GoGo Juice – thus bringing symmetry to Cleary’s recording of an entire album of Toussaint songs, entitled Occapella, which garnered rave reviews in 2012.

In addition to the Toussaint touch, GoGo Juice bursts, full flavor, with expert accompaniment by some of New Orleans’ top session men – including guitarist Shane Theriot, fellow keyboardist and vocalist Nigel Hall, and the Dirty Dozen horns – along with members of Cleary’s band, the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. (In praise of Cleary’s chemistry with this latter group, the eminent music journalist David Fricke of Rolling Stone declared that “Cleary can be an absolute monster on his own, but Cleary’s full combo R&B is as broad, deep and roiling as the Mississippi River, the combined swinging product of local keyboard tradition, Cleary’s vocal-songwriting flair for moody Seventies soul and the spunky-Meters roll of his Gentlemen”). Grammy Award-winning producer John Porter comes to GoGo Juice with a distinguished resume that includes work with the diverse likes of Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana and B. B. King, to name just a few.

Such diversity similarly characterizes the essence of Jon Cleary’s work and career. While thoroughly steeped in the classic Crescent City keyboard canon – from Jelly Roll Morton to Fats Domino to Art Neville, James Booker, and beyond – Cleary uses that century’s worth of pianistic brilliance as a point of departure to forge his own unique and eclectic style. As heard in the widely varied grooves and textures of GoGo Juice, Cleary’s sound incorporates such far-flung influences as ‘70s soul, gospel music, funk, Afro-Caribbean (and especially Afro-Cuban) rhythms and more. “I love New Orleans R&B, “ Cleary explains. “I’m a student of it – and a fan, first and foremost. But there’s little point in just going back and re-recording the old songs – although on my live solo shows, especially in New Orleans, I make a point of trying to keep the fast- disappearing tradition of the R&B pianist/singer alive by playing the old songs that are in danger of being forgotten. As for recording, however, I think the greatest New Orleans R&B records are the ones that built on what went before but also added something new. By writing new songs you get to channel all the music you absorb through your own individual set of filters – and the fun is in seeing what emerges.”

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Album Review

Jon Cleary: So Swell

Read "So Swell" reviewed by Thomas Cole

Imagine the joy of discovering a new album from Jon Cleary recorded in 2020, featuring Johnny Vidacovich and James Singleton together and occasionally accompanied by James Rivers on sax. Part of the Newvelle Records project involved producing an actual vinyl record titled The New Orleans Collection though it escaped notice from a casual listening audience with access only to segments of the sessions on YouTube. With ample advance notice with full charts provided by Cleary for this epic ...

Album Review

Dr John: Things Happen That Way

Read "Things Happen That Way" reviewed by Chris May

Interviewing the late Dr John aka The Night Tripper aka Dr John Creaux aka Mac Rebennack was a pleasure. Witty, erudite and b.s. free, he was reliably good copy. On one occasion he was an hour late and obviously, totally and spectacularly off his face. “If I nod out," he said, “kick me on the shin." The doctor was in... and out. Things Happen That Way has turned out to be Dr John's last recorded studio album, ...

Album Review

Jon Cleary: The New Orleans Collection: So Swell

Read "The New Orleans Collection: So Swell" reviewed by Pierre Giroux

Newvelle Records, which was established in 2015, believes that in the digital age there is an opportunity to build a new model for the creating and distributing music. Each year, Newvelle releases a series of six albums, exclusively on vinyl, that pairs musicians with celebrated artists, writers and poets. The New Orleans Collection contains four single sleeve 180-gram clear vinyl albums, each of which was recorded in New Orleans between January and March 2020 at Esplanade Studios, a former church ...

Live Review

Jon Cleary at The Ardmore Music Hall

Read "Jon Cleary at The Ardmore Music Hall" reviewed by Mike Jacobs

Jon Cleary The Ardmore Music Hall September 2, 2016 Jon Cleary's albums are chock full of indisputable funk steeped in jny: New Orleans tradition, fine musicianship and stylized songwriting but the real mojo is in seeing him and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen live. His album Mo Hippa Live captures this electricity as well as any recording could hope to but in the flesh, the amperage is considerably higher. The music that flooded ...

Album Review

Jon Cleary And The Absolute Monster Gentlemen: Pin Your Spin

Read "Pin Your Spin" reviewed by Craig W. Hurst

If you like big thick slabs of funk with fat backbeats, heavy bass lines and a strong dose of the blues, then you will find much to like on John Cleary's CD Pin Your Spin. New Orleans-based John Cleary And The Absolute Monster Gentlemen rock on with sounds that bring to mind 1970s keyboards of Billy Preston and Sly Stone, bass lines of Bootsy Collins, and vocals of Maurice White that float almost effortlessly over the thick-textured funky rhythmic stew. ...

Album Review

Jimmy Smith: Dot Com Blues

Read "Dot Com Blues" reviewed by Chris M. Slawecki

He's known as one of the founding jazz fathers of Hammond B-3 organ funk, but Jimmy Smith has always played the blues. Born in December 1928 in a suburb west of Philadelphia, Smith has been performing since he was 12, at that time in a song and dance act with his father. After a stint in the navy, Smith took advantage of the GI Bill to study bass, piano and music theory upon his service discharge. During this period Smith ...

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Music Education Monday: New Orleans piano with Jon Cleary and Tom McDermott

Music Education Monday: New Orleans piano with Jon Cleary and Tom McDermott

Source: St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman

Given that old adage about converts being the most zealous believers, perhaps it should come as no surprise that two of the most prominent current custodians of the New Orleans piano tradition are transplants to the city. Jon Cleary originally from is England, while Tom McDermott is from right here in jny: St. Louis, but both have made jny: New Orleans their home and have immersed themselves in the history and practice of the city's indigenous music. For today's Music ...



Jon Cleary Readies New Album "Occaopella"

Jon Cleary Readies New Album "Occaopella"

Source: conqueroo

Delving into the songbook of Allen Toussaint, New Orleans musician plans CD release celebration at JazzFest NEW ORLEANS, La.—The seeds for Jon Cleary's sixth solo CD were sown when the acclaimed songwriter, pianist and singer was asked the hypothetical question, “Would you ever do a record of somebody else's tunes?" The English-born Cleary, who has made New Orleans his home for more than three decades, provides his emphatic answer with the utterly captivating Occapella (released April 17 on the artist's ...


Performance / Tour

Jazz This Week: Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Jon Cleary, St. Louis Jazz Orchestra, the Bosman Twins, and More

Jazz This Week: Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Jon Cleary, St. Louis Jazz Orchestra, the Bosman Twins, and More

Source: St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman

This week's jazz and creative music menu in St. Louis features all sorts of sounds, from big band to cabaret to New Orleans roots music to several different flavors of modern jazz. Let's go right to the highlights... On Thursday evening, the St. Louis Jazz Orchestra, directed by bassist Jim Widner, performs at the Touhill Performing Arts Center; and pianist Ptah Williams and guitarist William Lenihan team up to do a free duo concert for the Jazz at Holmes series ...

"Jon Cleary is the ninth wonder in the world." —Bonnie Raitt

"Cleary can be an absolute monster on his own, but Cleary’s full combo R&B is as broad, deep and roiling as the Mississippi river, the combined swinging product of local keyboard tradition, Cleary’s vocal-songwriting flair for moody Seventies soul and the spunky-Meters roll of his Gentlemen." —David Fricke, Rolling Stone

“I haven’t heard anybody close to having absorbed so much funk and so many subtleties of the different genius piano players and guitar players and rhythms of New Orleans.” —Jazziz Magazine 2002

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Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

So Swell

Single Lock


Things Happen That Way

Rounder Records


Live: Mo Hippa

Self Produced


Pin Your Spin

Basin Street Records


Dot Com Blues

Verve Music Group



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