Jon Cleary, New Orleans R&B Piano Master, Makes Rare Visit
The last time Rocks Off saw Jon Cleary, he was hammering his piano like a blacksmith at the Big Easy, totally surrounded by adoring blues fans - so many, in fact, that it was difficult to even get a glimpse of the British-born pianist from the rear of the crowd.
Cleary and his band, the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, gave us a lesson in old school Fats Domino rock and roll with plenty of emphasis on the roll (the lack of which is what makes most of today's "rock" suck). We enjoyed the show so much we included it in our list of the best shows of 2010.
Cleary returns to the scene of the crime solo Friday night, and indicated in a phone interview Wednesday that he won't be playing the same set again.
Rocks Off: What can people look forward to in a solo set versus the rocking set you played last time you were here?
Jon Cleary: I just grab whatever moves me on these solo gigs. No set list, so I'm free to just go with my mood and pull from as deep in my repertoire as I feel like. Cuban stuff, jazz, blues, whatever I feel like or whatever I sense the crowd is into. And that's a format I very much enjoy.
RO: Not many people play the Fats Domino style anymore, but the last time you were here it almost seemed like a clinic in that particular New Orleans style.
JC: Well, I love Fats and his music. And one shouldn't think that Fats is one-dimensional. His music always had numerous elements in it, interesting Caribbean beats, things like that.
RO: How is he doing these days?
JC: He's fine. I go out and visit him when I'm in town. He's been living in a gated community since Katrina, and I think he misses his old friends and his old scene. So I go out and play piano for him. But he's doing well, stays upbeat. He's just a beautiful guy.
RO: To be only six hours away and to have drawn such a huge crowd the last time you played here, is there some reason you don't play Houston more often than you do?
JC: I don't really have an answer for that. I suppose I should play Houston a bit more often. But I can't say there is a particular reason that I haven't.