A tight band turning out a mighty funkified (or "fonkified", to use local parlance) set of tunes would be a good way to describe New Orleans’ pianist, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Jon Cleary’s
new self-titled CD. Or as a friend of mine likes to say, "They play so funky you can smell it!"
While the band does not perform "jazz", their sound is straight out of the 1970’s and is reminiscent of the great funky groups of the past such as Detroit’s Funk Inc.
and San Francisco’s Tower of Power
. In the New Orleans context, fans of Dr. John or the Neville Brothers will find a lot to identify in these eleven energy-charged performances.
The band itself is made of New Orleans funk veterans Jeffrey "Jellybean" Alexander on drums, Derwin "Big D" Perkins on guitar, and Cornell Williams on bass. Listeners to Bonnie Raitt may recognize Jon Cleary as her first-call pianist, appearing with Ms. Raitt on numerous recordings and live tours. She returns the favor on this album, contributing slide guitar and vocals to "Just Kissed My Baby" and "Been and Gone".
The majority of the tunes of this album are Jon’s, with the exception of the hard-driving shuffle "Take My Love" and Art Neville’s funky "Just Kissed My Baby". Tasty background harmonies, wah-wah pedal and Fender Rhodes give the band a truly authentic period sound. A few pleasant surprised pop up unexpectedly as well, such as the street band that appears on "Fanning the Flames".
The overall sound of the CD is superb, with natural sounding instruments, clear vocals, and a superb overall mix. The clean, tight sound of the band is an added bonus, since this kind of music most often gets heard in noisy clubs or crowded festival stages. No "Monsters" here, only "Gentlemen" musicians who make authentic New Orleans R&B come alive.