"C'mon Second Line"
Jon Cleary, from Alligator Lips and Dirty Rice, Ace (UK), 1989
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Born in Great Britain, Jon Cleary moved to New Orleans at age 17 in the early 1980’s and immediately began to soak up the local culture. His musical instrument of choice had been the guitar; but he seriously took up the piano after arriving in that city famous for its piano professors, inspired by the enveloping musical atmosphere of the Home of the Groove. He developed prodigious keyboard skills in a relatively short period of time, and, by the late 1980’s, was playing professionally. Around that time, I saw him solo as an opening act at Tipitina’s and was duly impressed.
By 1989, he had released his first LP/CD, Alligator Lips and Dirty Rice, which displays a combination of influences - barrelhouse blues and boogie woogie, New Orleans second line funk, and soulful rhythm and blues - on tasty cover tunes and worthy originals.
I’ve picked his decidedly New Orleans original, “C’mon Second Line” for this post, as its inspired playing aptly demonstrates what the second line groove is all about: a joyous celebration of life driven by a funked up parade beat that demands the butt to move until you let go of your cares and dance with abandon. You can hear the street-beat influences of brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians runnin’ and gunnin’ all over this track. Jon really radiates those 88’s, with George Porter, Jr. on bass and Bunchie Johnson on drums firing up the Mardi Gras party.
Over the years, I’ve seen Jon Cleary play many times. And I can safely say that he is the shit, absolutely monstrous. So, it’s no surprise that he calls his current band The Absolute Monster Gentlemen. He also has been Bonnie Raitt’s keyboard player for the past few years, following a stint with Taj Mahal’s band in the mid-1990’s. The only place you can get Alligator Lips and Dirty Rice now is from the man himself at his fine website (see link above), which has some awesome concert performances for download along with promo clips. He has three other CDs out, Moonburn on Virgin, and two more recent ones on Basin Street. His music just gets more soulful and funkified as he grows. It’s highly recommended HOTG listening.