Jon Cleary Biography

1964, Kent, England. This respected UK blues keyboard player has carved out a niche as a session player backing artists from a diverse range of genres, in addition to maintaining a low-key solo career with his funk band the Absolute Monster Gentlemen.

The first instrument Cleary learned was the guitar, and he played in several punk bands before graduating to the piano and returning to his first musical love, blues, funk, and jazz. After leaving art school Cleary made the pilgrimage across the ocean to New Orleans, Louisiana, landing a summer job at the popular venue the Maple Leaf Club. Although he was meant to be painting the bar Cleary was often called on to deputise for the house pianist. After an enforced return to England courtesy of the immigration department, Cleary moved back to New Orleans where he played with artists including Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington, George Porter Jnr. , and James Singleton.

During this period, Cleary formed his own backing band the Absolute Monster Gentlemen with Cornell Williams (bass), Derwin ‘Big D’ Perkins (guitar), and Jeffrey ‘Jellybean’ Alexander (drums). Despite continuing visa problems for their leader, the band was able to build up a formidable reputation as one of the city’s tightest units. The Absolute Monster Gentlemen were among the backing musicians on Cleary’s 1999 solo set Moonburn, which acted as a musical taster for the band’s 2002 release for the Basin Street label. In addition to his work with the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, Cleary has recorded and performed with Taj Mahal, D’Angelo, B.B. King and Eric Clapton, and is an occasional member of Bonnie Raitt’s backing band.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.