Jon Cleary

Grammy-winning Jon Cleary may be British born, but he is a New Orleanian at heart. His funk-infused piano rolls pay homage to the bedrock laid down by legends like Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, and Professor Longhair, and he brings those traditions to contemporary stages in performance with Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, and John Scofield, and with his own band, the Absolute Monster Gentlemen.

Cleary, born in 1962, grew up in Kent, England. He was turned on to New Orleans R & B and funk as a young teen, thanks to a traveling uncle who brought home stacks of 45 records. In 1981, he made his way to the Crescent City, landing a job as a painter at the Maple Leaf Bar at the time when James Booker and Roosevelt Sykes held down regular gigs there. He was soon hired to play with legends like Snooks Eaglin, Earl “Trick Bag” King, Johnny Adams, and Jessie “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” Hill. As Cleary’s reputation increased, his horizons widened; he began touring the world with his own band and with Bonnie Raitt and others.

Cleary has recorded nine albums with the Absolute Monster Gentlemen or as a solo artist, including his 1994 debut, “Alligator Lips and Dirty Rice,” the 2004 hit, “Pin Your Spin,” the 2012 release “Ocapella” (a tribute to Allen Toussaint on which Cleary played every part, save two guest appearances from Raitt and Dr. John), and “GoGo Juice,” which won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Regional Roots Album.

Cleary tours incessantly, and is known for his lengthy and wryly hilarious Facebook travelogues. He plays with the crème de la crème of New Orleans: Jeffery “Jellybean” Alexander, Derwin “Big D” Perkins, Cornell Williams, Shane Theriot, Craig Klein, Tuba Fats, Nigel Hall, Calvin Turner, Jamison Ross, A.J. Hall, and Leo Nocentelli, among others. In addition to his Grammy win, he’s earned numerous awards for his piano virtuosity. He holds regular slots at Chickee Wah Wah and other New Orleans clubs, is a favorite at local festivals, and can be heard at WWOZ’s annual Piano Night fundraiser.

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