Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1090

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John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts, London 21/8/15

John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts 21/8/15 @bluesandsoul.com
John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts 21/8/15 @bluesandsoul.com John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts 21/8/15 @bluesandsoul.com John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts 21/8/15 @bluesandsoul.com John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts 21/8/15 @bluesandsoul.com John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts 21/8/15 @bluesandsoul.com John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts 21/8/15 @bluesandsoul.com John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts 21/8/15 @bluesandsoul.com John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts 21/8/15 @bluesandsoul.com John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts 21/8/15 @bluesandsoul.com John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts 21/8/15 @bluesandsoul.com John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts 21/8/15 @bluesandsoul.com John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts 21/8/15 @bluesandsoul.com John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts 21/8/15 @bluesandsoul.com John Cleary: Ronnie Scotts 21/8/15 @bluesandsoul.com

For those those who wish to get acquainted with the man and his music, the intimate surroundings of Ronnie Scotts provided a perfect setting for this travelling transatlantic troubadour to show us a taste of his formidable wares, and great fat walloping deep grooves were the order of the day... You have to admire the way this artist puts the development of this music in a context that spans decades, but has a continuous yet present narrative and story through it all. There is nothing like a man who knows how to keep music and history alive instead of killing it off in the morass of the digital age.

Jon Cleary has continued to engage us by issuing quality driven music, he constantly displays the light touch expertise and willingness to guide, in a manner that is never patronising or flash just good old fashioned entertainment laid out for all to enjoy.

Tonight's set was a real corker! Mean, lean and funkily clean backed by the superb Absolute Monster Gentlemen. Cleary clearly relished his Ronnie's debut and brought us some 'Gnaw Lynne's' magic for all to savour and luxuriate in. Opening song "When You Get Back" set the mood with its blue eyed soul styling and strong "Sunny" type chord changes broke the band in sweetly, as the ensemble synergy began to materialise pretty much instantaneously, easing into an uptempo gospel inspired ditty set alight by JC's twinkly high register piano soloing - no neutral ground here, just a higher ground of nuance and texture!

Highlights were plenty, "Go Go Juice" (the title track from his fortcoming CD) pricked up many a ear with it's wicked clavinet intro and in between the cracks funky groove, that gives this style of music its own particular uniqueness. Drummer, Jamison Ross, the musical bus driver in this get up, is by all reckoning, a formidable asset as is the nimble bass playing of Cornell Williams. However an added bonus a 'lagniappe' you could say, was an unscheduled appearance by guitarist Derwin 'Big D' Perkins whose fluid lines (soft as Creole cream cheese) coupled with his extremely funky touch, was a wonder to behold...fire on the bayou had been reignited once again!

No ambassador of New Orleans would consider not including a classic eight bar blues and the old evergreen, "Junker's Blues," got a right royal makeover as JC set the song up with a highly evocative piano intro. This had the band positively drooling at the mouth, waiting restlessly to get into the stonking groove they had in mind for it. A New Orleans favorite since never-recorded pianist "Drive 'Em Down" (Willie Hall) played it in the streets in the Twenties..."Junker's Blues" was finally put on disc in 1941 by Hall's protege, Champion Jack Dupree. Jack's rough barrelhouse style fitted the down-and-dirty drug-user lyrics to a T, and musicians such as Fats Domino ("The Fat Man"), Lloyd Price ("Lawdy Miss Clawdy") and Professor Longhair ("Tipitina") have been casually borrowing lines from it ever since Dupree's original 78 RPM record was released....Talk about taking coal to Newcastle, more like taking a bowler to Nola! No one could guess Cleary originally comes from Kent! He is deeply rooted in the Crescent City and the embodiment of his chosen hometown and this particular song sees him offering one chorus after another of beautifully rendered and shaped lines, creatively developing one thematic variation after another, pure class!

"Fool's Game" was another delight, perhaps because of its wonderful segueing into "Just Kissed My Baby" - a Meters all time classic, torn to shreds by this incredible funk unit who are so deep in the pocket, you can't feel the cloth! The stop start, cat & mouse game they play was totally inspirational too, as they stopped mid groove to discuss the merits of a fish and jerk chicken dinner!

When all said and done, Cleary has a jazzy-R&B-funk sound all of his own, mixing in his own blend of musical spices, a fitting testament and vibrant tribute to the city as you’re ever likely to hear. This was one hell of a gig to witness and a real pleasure to see him in his own right. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

PHOTOS: BEN AMURE
Words Emrys Baird

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