The seeds for Jon Cleary's sixth solo LP were sown when the acclaimed songwriter, pianist and singer was asked the hypothetical question, 'Would you ever do a record of somebody's else's tunes?' The English-born Cleary, who has made New Orleans his home for more than three decades, provides his emphatic answer with the utterly captivating Occapella.
For this project, Cleary notes that he is "having fun with the songs of Allen Toussaint." He has chosen a mix of popular and less familiar pieces penned by legendary songwriter Allen Toussaint to re-imagine, like the lesser-known title track as well as better known tunes like "Southern Nights," "Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky," and "Fortune Teller," most recently made popular by Robert Plant/Alison Krauss.
Cleary explains the concept of the album: "The challenge was to take each song and do a flip on it in some respect... to take them in a different direction - to take an aspect of the melody or the chord progression, or perhaps his original arrangement, and present it in a different box, as it were." The result is a major success with creative and refreshing new takes on the great songs of a master truly deserving of this loving spotlight on his work. Cleary plays every instrument on the album (keyboards, guitar, bass and drums) with the exception of "Let's Get Low Down," where Dr. John plays guitar while bassist James Singleton and drummer Terence Higgins, both part of the flexible lineup of the Philthy Phew (Jon's current touring group), lay down the groove. Bonnie Raitt (Jon's former band leader of ten years) and Dr. John also join him on the song's vocals.
For his upcoming performances, Cleary, a three-time Blues Music Award Nominee for Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year, will perform solo on piano or with the Philthy Phew. He commands stages of all sizes from intimate venues to large festivals across the world.