John Scofield & Jon Cleary
@ the PizzaExpress Jazz Club
17 November 2019
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John Scofield biography
John Scofield’s guitar work has influenced jazz since the
late 70’s and is going strong today. Possessor of a very distinctive
sound and stylistic diversity, Scofield is a masterful jazz improviser
whose music generally falls somewhere between post-bop, funk edged
jazz, and R & B.
Born in Ohio and raised in suburban Connecticut, Scofield took
up the guitar at age 11, inspired by both rock and blues players.
He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. After a debut recording
with Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, Scofield was a member of the
Billy Cobham-George Duke band for two years. In 1977 he recorded
with Charles Mingus, and joined the Gary Burton quartet. He began
his international career as a bandleader and recording artist in
1978. From 1982-1985, Scofield toured and recorded with Miles Davis.
His Davis stint placed him firmly in the foreground of jazz consciousness
as a player and composer.
Since that time he has prominently led his own groups in the international
Jazz scene, recorded over 30 albums as a leader (many already classics)
including collaborations with contemporary favorites like Pat Metheny,
Charlie Haden, Eddie Harris, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Bill Frisell,
Brad Mehldau, Mavis Staples, Government Mule, Jack DeJohnette, Joe
Lovano and Phil Lesh. He’s played and recorded with Tony Williams,
Jim Hall, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Dave Holland,
Terumasa Hino among many jazz legends. Throughout his career Scofield
has punctuated his traditional jazz offerings with funk-oriented
electric music. All along, the guitarist has kept an open musical
Touring the world approximately 200 days per year with his own
groups, he is an Adjunct Professor of Music at New York University,
a husband and father of two.
Jon Cleary biography
Jon Cleary’s love and affinity for New Orleans music goes
back to the rural British village of Cranbrook, Kent, where he was
raised in a musical family. Cleary’s maternal grandparents
performed in London in the 1940s, under the respective stage names
Sweet Dolly Daydream and Frank Neville, The Little Fellow With The
Educated Feet – she as a singer, and he as a crooner and tap
As a teen Cleary grew increasingly interested in funk-infused
music and discovered that three such songs that he particularly
admired – LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade,” Robert
Palmer’s version of “Sneakin’ Sally Through the
Alley,” and Frankie Miller’s rendition of “Brickyard
Blues” – were attributed to Allen Toussaint as either
the songwriter, the producer, or both. Cleary’s knowledge
of Toussaint’s work expanded significantly when his uncle
returned home to the U.K., after a two-year sojourn in New Orleans,
with a copy of a Toussaint LP and two suitcases full of New Orleans
In 1981 Cleary flew to New Orleans for an initial pilgrimage and
took a cab straight from the airport to the Maple Leaf Bar, a storied
venue which then featured such great blues-rooted eclectic pianists
as Roosevelt Sykes and James Booker. Cleary first worked at the
Maple Leaf as a painter, but soon graduated to playing piano there
– even though his first instrument was the guitar, which he
still plays and has recently reintroduced into his live performances.
As word of Cleary’s burgeoning talent began to spread around
town, he was hired by such New Orleans R&B legends as Snooks
Eaglin, Earl “Trick Bag” King, Johnny Adams, and Jessie
“Ooh Poo Pah Doo” Hill, while also gaining the respect
of the great Crescent City pianists Dr. John and the late Allen
Toussaint. Years later, in 2012, Cleary recorded a critically acclaimed
album of all-Toussaint songs entitled Occapella.
Today, Cleary’s work pays obvious homage to the classic
Crescent City keyboard repertoire created by such icons as Jelly
Roll Morton, Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Art Neville, Dr. John,
and James Booker – while also using it as a launching pad
for a style that incorporates such other diverse influences as ’70s
soul and R&B, gospel music, funk, Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Cuban
rhythms, and much more.
Deciding to stay in New Orleans, Cleary recorded his first album
of nine, to date, in 1989. His ever-elevating profile led to global
touring work in the bands of Taj Mahal, John Scofield, Dr. John,
and Bonnie Raitt. Cleary has led his own group, the Absolute Monster
Gentlemen, for over two decades now, but he still collaborates frequently
with these old friends. At the 2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage
Festival, for instance, Cleary performed alongside Raitt in a heartfelt
tribute to Fats Domino.