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September 2002

Jon Cleary
Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen
Basin Street Records

On one of the songs on Jon Cleary's new album, the British-born, New Orleans-based keyboardist-vocalist-multi-instrumentalist declares, "You can't make it truly funky if you ain't playing with soul." Judging from this album, Cleary and his band, the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, know a lot about both. This prodigiously accomplished outfit-featuring drummer-vocalist Jeffrey "Jellybean" Alexander, guitarist-vocalist Derwin "Big D" Perkins and bassist-vocalist Cornell Williams-combines Crescent City R&B, gospel, blues, harmony-rich vocals, a hefty helping of funkand a whole lot of rousing high spirits to create an album that grooves infectiously with the unbridled energy of a late-night jam session. Simply put, this album is a delight from start to finish.

Bonnie Raitt, with whom Cleary has performed and toured, lends subtle but unmistakable slide guitar and vocal support to two tracks, the ferocious funk workout "Just Kissed My Baby" and the bluesy, horn-accented "Been and Gone." Elsewhere, members of New Orleans' Chosen Few Brass Band lend some spice to the slow-burn blues "Fanning the Flames." Cleary and the band's gospel roots show on "Take My Love," and they close the album with the appropriately titled "Too Damn Hot," a rollicking instrumental jam that's all retro keyboards and pulsing funk rhythms.

Originally published in September 2002
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