Jon Cleary is one of the few artists on this list who is not a native New Orleanian (Anders and Theresa, we're also lookin at you), but you wouldn't know that from listening to his album "Mo Hippa Live." Recorded 9000 miles away in Sydney, Australia in 2008, Cleary plays Mardi Gras standards with the bravado of Professor Longhair, giving the crowd down under a delicious slice of New Orleans.
Cleary and his band The Absolute Monster Gentlemen have made fine studio recordings before (his 2004 album "Pin Your Spin" is a funky piano treat), but "Mo Hippa Live" proves that Cleary was born to play in front of a crowd. He's nearly flawless on the piano here, and the live setting breathes new life into his original compositions that at times felt cramped in the studio. He lets it loose on "C'mon Second Line" and the title track, "Mo Hippa," both of which were penned by Cleary himself.
In a city that is often defined by its local music scene, this album is a treasure, proof that our unique sound can be transplanted to a foreign country while still getting the crowd moving on its feet.
- Chad Bower
Jon Cleary - "When You Get Back," live @ at Jazz Fest 2007