2012-04-22For the uninitiated, Jon Cleary is an Englishman who found his way to New Orleans three decades ago and quickly became an in demand session man for his stellar piano skills. Along the way he’s played with most everyone who’s anyone in the New Orleans scene and served a long stint recording and touring with Bonnie Raitt. In addition to his sideman skills, he’s fronted his own band, the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, for a number of years which regularly packs New Orleans clubs with fans that can’t get enough of the band’s hard hitting blues and funk. This, his sixth release, marks a departure from his prior work, by skipping self-penned tunes in favor of the music of the legendary Allen Toussaint (who also wrote under the pseudonym Naomi Neville thus explaining those tracks on this release) Self-recorded and featuring Cleary on keys, guitar, bass and drums, it is obvious from beginning to end that he is having a ball with these 12 classics. With vocal help from Bonnie Raitt and Dr. John, "Let’s Get Low Down" kicks things off with some hard hitting funk. The Absolute Monster Gentlemen join the fun on Occapella, Wrong Number and Popcorn Pop Pop where they lay down glorious vocal harmonies. Poor Boy Got to Move is recast into a reggae tune while the well travelled Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky gets a tougher, more elastic treatment than typical of the countless covers played night after night in clubs everywhere with the added bonus of vocal help from Walter Wolfman Washington. What Do You Want A Girl To Do gets a much different reading than the version popularized by Boz Scaggs and Southern Nights loses the county pop treatment associated with the Glenn Campbell version. The oft covered Fortune Teller gets delivered as a solo piano piece that renders it a brand new tune. While I’m a bigger fan of Cleary’s own brand of funk than the limiting constraints of a tribute disc, you can’t go wrong with the songs of Allen Toussaint and there’s no one better suited to a project such as this than Jon Cleary. SMITTY
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