“playing new orleans music is like an accent…you can tell if it isn’t right”

My Jon Cleary piece for the L.A. Times is up.

He has such a layered story, which the music so accurately reflects. So much to try to squeeze into limited inch-space. The piece, I decided, had to be as much about him as it was about place — the city that shaped him and changed his life.

In a certain respect, the Maple Leaf Bar is where it all happened:

“The blues pianist Roosevelt Sykes used to hang out … with his suit on and his big hat, tinkling away,” he recalls. “And James Booker, arguably one of the best piano players New Orleans ever produced, happened to be living upstairs. So I’d be painting, and this piano music would be wafting [through] …” he recalls. “That’s when I became a piano player.”

Getting ready for Jon Cleary’s Philthy Phew at UCLA Live tonight.

Here’s a little preview: Cleary with the Absolute Monster Gentleman —

photo: copyright lynell george, 2012


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