Jon Cleary is acutely aware that a piano player’s livelihood depends on 10 functioning fingers – never moreso than after fracturing the pinky of his left hand.

The British-born Cleary, one of the foremost New Orleans piano practitioners both on his own and with the funky Absolute Monster Gentlemen, took a tumble on St. Claude Avenue following a recent solo gig at the Saturn Bar. He wasn’t intoxicated, he reports. Neither did he trip on a pothole, as he wrote in a typically florid Facebook post that took poetic license with the incident.

He simply lost his balance while carrying several items to his car after the gig, and landed hard on his hands.

X-rays revealed a clean fracture in the little finger that plays an outsized role in boogie-woogie-style piano playing. The injury hurt, but surgery wasn't necessary.

“I was a bit nervous,” Cleary said. “It looked nasty and felt really painful and there was a lot of blood. But the bits are all in the right places. The doctor anticipates no problems.”

It was the first time in his life he’d ever broken a bone. The pain in the finger, which is now in a splint, has subsided, meaning he’s more attuned to the pain in his knee and his ribs, which were also banged up in the fall.

Unfortunately, he had to cancel three sold-out solo shows in London that he’d booked in December during his annual holiday season visit to England.

“You can’t do a solo piano gig with one hand,” he noted.

But he’ll still log some work hours overseas. While in England, he plans to spend time with producer John Porter evaluating 20 new songs he cut with the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. They were recorded at Cleary’s home studio in Bywater, which is finally up and running again after two years of Hurricane Ida repairs and insurance payment delays.

Cleary won’t be capable of overdubbing any keyboard parts at Porter’s studio in England, but he expects to be back to his boogie-woogie ways by mid-January.

And he was able to perform as scheduled at Zony Mash Beer Project on Dec. 9. The Absolute Monster Gentlemen, augmented by a horn section and keyboardist Nigel Hall, filled in the gaps left by the absence of Cleary’s left hand on the keys.

The only silver lining to performing with one hand tied behind his back was that he was able to focus on his singing.

“It was eye-opening,” he said. “We played for two hours, but I didn’t want to stop singing. You’ve got to look on the positive side when things like this happen, and turn it to your advantage.”

Cleary isn’t the only local musician having to look for the positive side following a fall.

Americana singer-songwriter Lynn Drury fell after a Nov. 18 gig in Springfield with the hybrid reggae band Shantytown Underground. She fractured her right humerus, the bone that connects to the shoulder joint, in three places. The injury to her strumming arm means she won’t be able to play guitar for several months.

Guitarist and songwriter Dick Deluxe fell as he went onstage at Whiskey Bayou in June and broke his hip. He healed, then tripped on Dauphine Street in early December and broke his right femur. Between the two incidents, he’s spent 16 hours in surgery and received 600 stitches, plus metal plates and rods.

And singer Kitty Baudoin, like Cleary, tripped on St. Claude and injured a shoulder and hand.

Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for all.

Email Keith Spera at