Jon Cleary: 100 Years of New Orleans Piano

  • Sun, Dec 4, 2022 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
  • Acadiana Center for the Arts

    101 West Vermilion Street
    Lafayette, Louisiana 70501
Ticket Price $35.00-$55.00 Buy Tickets
Description

Louisiana Crossroads Tickets:

  • $35 – Mezzanine
  • $45 – Rear Orchestra
  • $55 – Front Orchestra

GRAMMY winner JON CLEARY pays homage to New Orleans icons like Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Art Neville, Dr John, and more through a performance of the evolution of the Crescent City’s piano tradition. A virtuosic keyboardist, profoundly expressive vocalist and distinctive songwriter, Cleary has toured the world with the likes of Taj Mahal and Bonnie Raitt, and has led his own R&B/soul group the Absolute Monster Gentlemen for over two decades.

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 in London in the 1940s, under the respective stage names Sweet Dolly Daydream and Frank Neville, The Little Fellow With The Educated Feet – she as a singer, and he as a crooner and tap dancer.


As a teen Cleary grew increasingly interested in funk-infused music and discovered that three such songs that he particularly admired – LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade,” Robert Palmer’s version of “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,” and Frankie Miller’s rendition of “Brickyard Blues” – were attributed to Allen Toussaint as either the songwriter, the producer, or both. Cleary’s knowledge of Toussaint’s work expanded significantly when his uncle returned home to the U.K., after a two-year sojourn in New Orleans, with a copy of a Toussaint LP and two suitcases full of New Orleans R&B 45s.


In 1981 Cleary flew to New Orleans for an initial pilgrimage and took a cab straight from the airport to the Maple Leaf Bar, a storied venue which then featured such great blues-rooted eclectic pianists as Roosevelt Sykes and James Booker. Cleary first worked at the Maple Leaf as a painter, but soon graduated to playing piano there – even though his first instrument was the guitar, which he still plays and has recently reintroduced into his live performances.


As word of Cleary’s burgeoning talent began to spread around town, he was hired by such New Orleans R&B legends as Snooks Eaglin, Earl “Trick Bag” King, Johnny Adams, and Jessie “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” Hill, while also gaining the respect of the great Crescent City pianists Dr. John and the late Allen Toussaint. Years later, in 2012, Cleary recorded a critically acclaimed album of all-Toussaint songs entitled Occapella.


Today, Cleary’s work pays obvious homage to the classic Crescent City keyboard repertoire created by such icons as Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Art Neville, Dr. John, and James Booker – while also using it as a launching pad for a style that incorporates such other diverse influences as ’70s soul and R&B, gospel music, funk, Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Cuban rhythms, and much more.


Deciding to stay in New Orleans, Cleary recorded his first album of nine, to date, in 1989. His ever-elevating profile led to global touring work in the bands of Taj Mahal, John Scofield, Dr. John, and Bonnie Raitt. Cleary has led his own group, the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, for over two decades now, but he still collaborates frequently with these old friends. At the 2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, for instance, Cleary performed alongside Raitt in a heartfelt tribute to Fats Domino.

Date & Time

Sun, Dec 4, 2022 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM

Venue Details

Acadiana Center for the Arts

101 West Vermilion Street
Lafayette, Louisiana 70501 Acadiana Center for the Arts
Acadiana Center for the Arts

Our mission is fostering art and culture in Acadiana.

Founded in 1975, Acadiana Center for the Arts (“AcA”) is a community-supported nonprofit organization that fosters art and culture in Acadiana. Since its founding, AcA has developed as a major force, shaping the future of public education and community development in South Louisiana.

AcA supports the creation of new works of art, exhibits, festivals, performances, and public art across an eight-parish region that includes Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, and Vermilion Parishes.  

AcA aims to bring equitable access to the arts and supports fair compensation of artists. On average, AcA serves over 300,000 people annually and provides fair compensation to 2,700 artists.  

In 2013, the AcA merged with the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana (“PASA”), whose mission was to educate, inspire, entertain, and culturally enrich the people of south Louisiana by providing local access to a diverse range of the performing arts. This merger supported the vision of both organizations and provided much-needed support to PASA’s programs. Founded in 1989, PASA served as a leading voice in the performing arts in South Louisiana for close to three decades.


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