Cleaveland Jones just might be the ideal Miamian — the alpha Floridian, if you will. And if there's any doubt that he's as fitting a face as the MIA could want, consider his new album Tao Jones, a happy marriage showcasing reggae, soul, and samba in perfect spiritual harmony.
"Eastern philosophy and religion is something that I was very interested in," says Jones. "I don't consider myself a very religious person. But Taoism is a very loose idea of spirituality that actually fits with how I see things. So on a personal note, it was a throwback to some of my personal beliefs."
At the heart of the title, though, there's also an ironic double meaning. "There's a little joke there about spiritualism and materialism," he laughs. Pronounced properly, it sounds like Dow Jones.
An Ohio native, the ebb and flow of life brought Jones to Miami. And the siren song of our subtropical music scene kept him. But the sounds of the city proved to be as much influence as allure, actually informing the songwriter's work.
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"I've changed my sound over the years and modified things," says Jones. "And sometimes that's been tweaking it to find what works here, and what the Miami audience is listening for. But also a part of that is Brazil, and just my own personal interest and affection for Brazilian and tropical music."
At once rhythmic and haunting, his songs seem to sway in time with the palms, as perfect for relaxing on the patio of the Standard Hotel as for docking by the lighthouse in Matheson Hammock Park. And tracks in Tao Jones are no different.
Recorded at DJ Le Spam's City of Progress Studios, the album vibrates with the local icon's input. "He really has his finger on the pulse of this town," Jones says. "So it was really cool to have him in the room lending his ears."
But Le Spam isn't the only one who lent his talents. The guest list unfolds like a who's who of Miami all-stars, including Brian Robertson of ANR, Fabi Patiño of Lanzallamas Monofónica, Michelle Foreman and Chad Bernstein of Suénalo, Sofy Encanto of Elastic Bond, and Jesse Jackson. Turns out, Tao Jones is a real community effort.