Jazz pianist/organist Neal Creque, the youngest of eight siblings, was born in 1940 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. His father taught classical piano and wrote poetry. At five, Creque started taking piano lessons; at nine he was working a live radio gig with his father called Creque and Creque. He moved to the States in 1956 and quietly built a solid reputation in the jazz field until his untimely death on December 1, 2000, of kidney cancer. He lived in Olmsted Falls (a suburb of Cleveland), OH.
Creque came to the States to attend Theil College in Greenville, PA. From there, he spent four years in the Air Force, where he distinguished himself as a member of the marching band; he wanted to be a pilot, but poor eyesight squelched that desire. When his duty ended, he settled in Miami and played with a rock & roll band for two years; next came a relocation to New York, NY, where he hooked up with Pucha & the Latin Soul, then percussionist Mongo Santamaria. He became a sought-after session player and participated in countless recording sessions, including Stanley Turrentine, Theresa Brewer, Leon Thomas, Grant Green, Harold Ousley, Bernard Purdie, and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson. During his New York stay, he became temperamental singer Carmen McCrae's musical director; despite her rep, Creque never had a problem with the easy listening balladeerdress; she wanted him to accompany her to the West Coast, but he declined, opting to move with his wife Nina and daughter Kim, to Cleveland, OH, in 1973.
Creque met Nina while touring in Toledo, OH, while he was still living in New York; they married in Cleveland shortly after the love connection. Nina comes from a musical background herself; her stepfather, Lee Bailey, was the lead singer of the Swan Silvertones. Nina sang in bands and was doing so when she met Creque. The couples' youngest daughter Nina Lornaye Creque sang with One of the Girls, released a CD on Atlantic Records, and has worked with Eightball, MJG, and Mr. Mike.
Creque built his nest in Cleveland and became C-Town's uncrowned jazz guru; he wrote more than 3,000 songs and about 90 got recorded, including cuts by Grant Green, Ramsey Lewis, Johnny Lytle, Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters, and Latin Soul Brothers. As a leader, he cut two albums on Muse Records: Sextet & the Hand of Time (1973) and Black Velvet Rose (1976). He taught at Cleveland State University, the Cleveland Music Settlement, and in 1988, joined the faculty at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. In 1989 he became an illustrious member of the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra and participated until his untimely demise. A Cleveland fanatic, Creque once said, "Cleveland has more to offer in jazz than New York, Detroit, or California." He was survived by his wife Nina, daughters Kim Creque-Jenkins and Nina L. Creque, grandson Kendle Jenkins Jr., brother Marvin Creque, sister Jewell Garrett, and joins five deceased siblings in heaven. ~ Andrew Hamilton, Rovi