Jon Cleary
So Swell

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Funk, jazz, R&B—these genres are so deeply rooted in New Orleans that it’s no wonder the young British pianist Jon Cleary was compelled to move to the city to play. In the early 80’s, he was painting the bar at the famous Maple Leaf Bar, where he listened to James Booker play live every week while soaking in the sounds of New Orleans piano greats such as Huey “Piano” Smith, Mac Rebennack, Fats Domino, and Professor Longhair. Now, four decades later, New Orleans has fully embraced Cleary as one of its own. Coming full circle for this recording, Cleary is backed by James Booker’s rhythm section—from his last studio album ClassifiedJames Singleton on upright bass and Johnny Vidacovich on drums. They are joined on several tracks by James Rivers, a legendary New Orleans saxophone player who played on many New Orleans funk and R&B classics from Big Chief to Carnival Time.

Jon Cleary - So Swell
Jon Cleary - So Swell
Jon Cleary - So Swell
Jon Cleary - So Swell
Jon Cleary - So Swell

Recorded by Misha Kachkachishvili at Esplanade Studios New Orleans March 10-12 2020
Mixed by Marc Urselli at East Side Sound, New York City
Mastered by Alex DeTurk, The Bunker New York City
180 Gram clear vinyl
Pressed at QRP in Salinas Kansas
Old style Tip-on Full Color Gatefold Jacket
Made at famed Stoughton Printing in Los Angeles

Shot by Lily Keber & Zac Manuel. Edited by Ben Chace. Additional editing by Matt Steinfeld.

Side A
Swanee River Boogie
Two Wrongs
I Call It Pretty music
Just Because
So Swell When You’re Well
Second Line on Monday

Side B
We're No Exception
I Get The Blues When it Rains
Lottie Mo
Pony Boy
Tuburculucas and the Sinus Blues
Since I Don't Have You

“My family was Londoners but my mom and dad moved down to the country when I was very little.  What I heard was what every kid heard at that time. We had one program a week on English TV called Top of the Pops, which was usually pretty dreadful. But through my family I had access to this other world of music. They all were music lovers and they all had tastes that were in a particular area.  One of the people I learned the most from was my Auntie, who around ’73 was a striking gorgeous girl with big afro and platform shoes and hot pants. And so I’d go through her record collection and there was Donny Hathaway, and all kinds of hip Staple Singers, Dr John, the Right Place, Wrong Time album. And her brother, my uncle, had recently returned from a long stay here in New Orleans. He was an exotic character that would flit in and out of our lives depending on where he was traveling in the world. One minute he’d be working on sardine boats in the Mediterranean and the next thing he was living in a cave in southern Morocco right on the edge of the Sahara. And then one time he came back and he’d been in New Orleans for about 2 or 3 years and he was raving about a piano player that he would see called Professor Longhair, and that name just always really tickled me, Professor Longhair. So I was probably 10 or 11 years old at that time. And when I’d go up and stay with him and visit he had piles of New Orleans 45s that he’d brought back in suitcases and we’d spend hours .. he knew I was interested and gave me a lot of encouragement and say you should hear this, and check this out. So I got a great education in New Orleans R&B from him. He had 45s by Professor Longhair and Clarence Henry, Smiley Lewis, all kinds of great people. Obscure bands like Jiving Gene and the Jokers that still people don’t talk about. So that was the stuff that I really liked. Part of the appeal perhaps was because it was so rare. No one else knew anything about it. No one else at my school had ever heard of Professor Longhair. No one in England had ever heard of Professor Longhair. There were no ‘Fess albums then, just 45s... So anyway, I learned from records. I didn’t know it was funk at the time. It was just very syncopated music that spoke of something exotic to a young child in England in the 1970’s. ”

--Jon Cleary March 12, 2020

Jon Cleary: Vocals, Piano, B3 Organ, Percussion
James Singleton: Upright Bass
Johnny Vidacovich: Drums
James Rivers: Saxophone

Produced by Ben Chace

Photography by Daymon Gardner
Graphic Design by Studio Mococo

Jon Cleary - So Swell
Jon Cleary - So Swell
Jon Cleary - So Swell
Jon Cleary - So Swell
Jon Cleary - So Swell