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Jon Cleary

A respected session and sideman, British blues pianist and composer Jon Cleary has worked with rock, blues, and soul artists like Bonnie Raitt, D'Angelo, Maria Muldaur, Taj Mahal, and Eric Clapton.

Originally a guitarist, Cleary began playing at age five, and started his first band at 15. Raised on blues, jazz, and soul records, his love of New Orleans blues and jazz in particular took him across the ocean after he graduated from art school.

Upon arriving in New Orleans, Cleary started hanging out at one of the city's most storied venues -- the Maple Leaf Club. The bar's owner offered him a job painting the Maple Leaf's exterior; free admission and beer were Cleary's wages. He soaked up the bar's atmosphere, realizing that blues piano was his calling; the house he lived in had a piano, on which he spent hours practicing each day.

Returning to London culminated in forming a traditional six-piece New Orleans R&B band, with which he developed a reputation as a talented and gentlemanly musician. However, the Big Easy called to Cleary again. He moved back and got bookings in clubs as a featured and side performer, playing with bluesmen like Smokey Johnson, James Singleton, and George Porter. One of these gigs found Walter "Wolfman" Washington in the audience; taken with Cleary's playing, Washington offered Cleary a spot in his own band. Cleary played with Washington for two years, continuing his introduction to more sophisticated forms of R&B and blues, as well as incorporating Latin influences into his style.

At this point, Cleary began writing his own material and formed his own band, the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, with bassist Cornell Williams and guitarist Derwin "Big D" Perkins from the gospel group the Friendly Travelers, and drummer Jeffrey "Jellybean" Alexander. Just as the Absolute Monster Gentlemen achieved a reputation as one of New Orleans' finest combos, Cleary encountered visa problems and had to return to the U.K. immediately.

Back in England, Cleary continued refining and expanding his vision of the blues, when he received a call from producer John Porter, a fellow Englishman who had seen some of Cleary's performances at the Maple Leaf and wanted to introduce him to the blues scene at large. Recording with Taj Mahal and playing a gig at the Hollywood Athletic Club followed, as well as a collaboration between Cleary and Porter on his 1999 solo debut album, Moonburn. Three years would go by until a new album would be prepared, but by 2002 he had an eponymous album ready with the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. The same band recorded Pin Your Spin in 2004.

Cleary toured the U.S. and Europe constantly but always returned to New Orleans. Strangely, the metal label Megaforce issued the live one-off Mo Hippa! in 2008.

In 2010, Cleary was part of the cast of the short-lived HBO series Treme. Like most musicians on the show, he played himself. His next album, Occapella!, was issued in 2012; it provided a showcase for vocals as much as his celebrated piano playing. Playing at home and throughout the American South (as well as at select gigs at international festivals), Cleary released GoGo Juice through Thirty Tigers in the summer of 2015. It was produced by John Porter and recorded at the legendary Dockside Studio in Maurice, Louisiana. ~ Heather Phares
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Pin Your Spin

1. Pin Your Spin

2. Agent 00 Funk

3. Oh No No No

4. Aint Nuttin Nice

5. Smile In A While

6. Doin Bad Feelin Good

7. Best Aint Good Enuff

8. Funky Munky Biznis

9. Is It Any Wonder

10. Got To Be More Careful

11. Caught Red Handed

12. Zulu Strut

x

Track List: Jon Cleary And The Absolute Monster Gentlemen

1. Sometimes I Wonder

2. Cheating On You

3. More Hipper

4. Just Kissed My Baby

5. When You Get Back

6. Take My Love

7. A Little Satisfaction

8. Been And Gone

9. So Damn Good

10. Fanning The Flames

11. Too Damn Hot

x

Track List: Moonburn

1. Fools Game

2. So Damn Good

3. Heavy Under Pressure

4. Unnecessarily Mercenary

5. Port Street Blues

6. Gettin' Crazy Up In Here

7. Help Me Somebody

8. Would I Lie To You?

9. Who's There With You

10. Stepping In On Your Thing

11. Salty Water

12. Moonburn

x

Track List: Occapella!

1. Let's Get Low Down

2. Occapella

3. Poor Boy Got To Move

4. Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky

5. Southern Nights

6. Viva La Money

7. Wrong Number

8. Popcorn Pop Pop

9. What Do You Want The Girl To Do

10. When The Party's Over

11. I'm Gone

12. Fortune Teller

Comments

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I'm excited to see Jon live in NYC next week 2/24/16
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Congratulati o n s to you, Jon, on your GRAMMY 2016! GoGo Juice is certainly worthy of this award.
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i STUMBLED ON TO, ONE BOSS MAN.
MEJEED HUNTER
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Jon was guesting on the piano with Bonnie Raitt (Tucson, AZ) a few years ago...I was instantly a fan. I could not take my eyes off him...Jon Cleary is a percussion instrument dressed up in a human suit. Truly, truly, he is a gifted musician -- profound to see the purity of the energy run its course throughout his entire body. He was also so very polite when I purchased a cd after the concert. Looking forward to my next Jon Cleary encounter!
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I caught Jon Cleary at Abitafest. A storm chased away the crowd and knocked out the lights. The gentlemen just kept on with their funky selves. Weeks later, at Liuzza's by the track, he was enjoying a martini two stools down from my bowl of gumbo. Damn, I miss New Orleans.
Report as inappropriate
mmmmmm mo' betta
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mrschaffins
like this.......!
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ap65
Awesome show with his trio at chicky wahwah
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Saw John Cleary on an episode of " Treme " and he did a kickass job reallyn glad I followed up by checking him out on Pandora Internet Radio I recomend you give him a listen !! J.B.
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dianeandruss
All that and he's awfully handsome, too! Sorry, I have a thing for dimples.
Report as inappropriate
-I Am A Bassist & Lead Vocalist & Multi-talent e d As Well, I have Been Performing For Over 30 Years To Date, I have Performed Along-side Of Several Of The Blues masters & Then Some, Like "The Kinzie Report",Lurr i e Bell".John Primer",Bigt i m e sara,Sweet Betty,Lazy lester,Jimmy D.Lane", Ans Many Others From The Chaicago Blues & Jazz family. I Now Perform With My Band-Zafaja" We have 19 CDs Out On The Market" As For John Cleary? John Is Another Of The Greats That Needs No BIG Formal Announcement s , Li
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maltan
Tasteful, moving, powerful, fun... AWESOME music and Band!
Report as inappropriate
Should have made it BIG!! er
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alanjohnson1 9
He's one of the finest blues piano players that I've ever heard -sets a groove like nobody's business
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redburndebra
moving jazz........
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whoyt2
We saw Jon tickling the ivory at the dba in NO and we're now fans for life...
Report as inappropriate
bryan_baxley
Jon Cleary is one bad ......... shut your mouth. I'm just talkin' bout Cleary.

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