It was once stated by French writer and musician Boris Vian that, “there are only two things: love, all sorts of love, with pretty girls, and the music of New Orleans… Everything else ought to go, because everything else is ugly.” A sentiment that, though it was made over sixty years ago, echoes true through revered bluesman Jon Cleary.
He is ever nostalgic for his American home since his teenage years. From describing the melting pot of musical elements within this small Louisiana city to a brief account of its history, Cleary is undoubtedly where he wants to be.
“I always feel it’s a privilege to be associated with this city and its music because I have such respect for it,” he enthuses, his stark English accent the only giveaway to his British roots. “I enjoy the privilege of living in the United States but being from somewhere else, I feel like I can take the best of both worlds.”
With a population of just over 350,000, Cleary says he was not at a loss to find some talented musicians of that high New Orleans calibre to collaborate with.
“When I came to New Orleans I used to get hired to play old rhythm and blues for a band,” he explains. “But I was writing new stuff so I hooked up with some friends of mine that were in one of my favourite gospel bands and I wanted them to work on my tunes so we could present them at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. That went well.”
Thus became what is now known as his accompanying band ‘The Absolute Monster Gentlemen’. However, despite the announcement of guitarist Big D’s hospitalisation and thus inability to commit to their upcoming Australian tour, there’s no doubt that Cleary and the remaining members will be stirring up their Aussie fans with soulful flourishes and legendary improvisation.
“I get quite proud that we’re showing off just how good musicians from New Orleans are,” Cleary says. “Sometimes you feel like you always have to explain why you’re doing something but the Australian audiences seem to be on the same page straight away.”
He continues, “So that’s a thrill for me. Knowing that when I walk out on stage, what we’re going to do is going to be well-received and appreciated.” (CD)
March 14 & 15, The Basement, 7 Macquarie Pl, Circular Quay, $44.50+bf, moshtix.com.au