I have been trying to catch Jon Cleary’s show at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans for quite a few years now. For one reason or another I missed him every time I was there. I was therefore very happy to see he was coming to Philadelphia to support his new Grammy winning album Go Go Juice.
Following in a long line of excellent New Orleans piano players like Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Cleary plays his version of New Orleans R&B aka New Orleans Funk.
Traveling from his home in England he came to New Orleans with only the address and phone number of The Maple Leaf Bar so he headed straight there. This is where he painted (the exterior of the building), practiced, and absorbed the sounds of the Big Easy. When he got his chance to play he showed them that he could do just that. So the boy from the UK passed the only test there was. He could play.
While playing with a number of well known names over the years he has also been playing for twenty years with the band, The Absolute Monster Gentlemen. Cornell Williams on bass, Derwin “Big D” Perkins on guitar, and A. J. Hall with the band for just a couple of months fit in great on drums.
Cleary opened the show with his take on the Sam Cooke song “Soothe Me Baby”. He then went through a set list of some of his songs from older albums like “So Damn Good” and “Port Street Blues”. He also broke away from his set list and played his take on Professor Longhair’s take on Junkers Blues “Tipitina”. Wow!
Cleary and the band then proceeded to rock the house with that New Orleans funk. He had the audience up and dancing to a lot of the songs from his new album. “Bringing Back The Home”, “Frenchmen Street”, and “9-5, 9-99”. He told us he picked up a lick from his uncle and asked if he could use it to open Boneyard. Leaving no one in their seats Cleary kicked it into an extended version of “Pump It Up” to end the show. With everyone still standing those Absolute Monster Gentlemen encored with some wild soul playing “Mo Hippa” to what was now a wild audience.
So, if you’ve got soul and love that gumbo head on down to the Maple Leaf to catch Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen live. You will love it.
Jon Cleary and The Absolutely Monster Gentlemen
World Cafe Live
Mark J. Smith