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Live Review:

Jon Cleary

Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen
Water Rats Theatre, London, 9th Sept 2007
Review by Darrall Parsons.
Photos by Patrick Cusse & Christie Goodwin at www.ccphotoart.biz

This was a very welcome and rare chance to Jon Cleary and his longstanding Monster Gents in between lengthy tours through the States, Europe and down under. An expectant and enthusiastic crowd, with several representatives from the British blues scene crammed into this venue which, in reality, is the back room of a pub - and not a large one either!

Opening with some classic Professor Longhair, introduced by some rich fatback drums, courtesy of Eddie Christmas, the standard was set for some supreme New Orleans style funk, soul and blues. With his keyboards centre stage and literally inches away from the punters at the front, Jon Cleary spent the best part of two hours taking us through an extended sample of his repertoire, combining a variety of styles from boogie piano to chiming keys and soulful grooves, with a soupcon of cowbell for added beat on occasion. “People Say” started easy, before racing away and “Glad When I Got The Blues” demonstrated his classic vocal technique perfectly.

Jon Cleary

Behind Jon, the Monster Gents produced some monster funk, emphasised by Cornell Williams’ ability with the down beat on bass and “Big D” Perkins on boiling guitar, driven along by Eddie at the back. “C’mon Second Line” was upbeat, while “Port Street Blues” slowed the pace and increased the intensity. “Cheating On You” had a lighter touch, before “Fools Game” featured soulful vocals from all performers and stinging guitar from “Bid D”.

“Take My Love” was an enjoyable shuffle, dictated by Eddie and included some real blues riffs from Jon and “Big D”, to be followed by a soulful delivery of “Help Me Somebody” that, for me personally, conjured up memories of classic Frankie Beverley and Maze. “Groove Me” was heavily infused by Cornell’s funky bass and “Be With Me” gave us a flavour of Johnny Guitar Watson.

“Too Damned Hot” (and boy, it was by now in this cosy environment!) was sparse in construction, but still managed to individually highlight the talents of all four musicians as we were transported from London to Tipitina’s in Louisiana. Finally, “When You Get Back” closed proceedings in terrific style, before much shouting, stamping and hollering brought the band back for a stretched out encore and opportunity to be amazed at how Jon, Eddie, Cornell and Derwin blend so well together to cook up a timeless musical gumbo.

Jon Cleary

Never mind celebrity cookery shows, wet your appetite with a soulful New Orleans stew from the Monster Gents CD’s and hope they sustain you until Jon and the boys venture to the UK again, which can’t be too soon in my book.

More info: www.joncleary.com

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