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Jon Cleary

Occapella (FHQ Records)

Jun. 19, 2012
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On Occapella, Jon Cleary—blue-eyed, English-born bastion of 'Nawlins-cooked R&B, barroom killer on the piano (and guitar), and one-time collaborator with Bonnie Raitt—applies his own appropriate brand of playing to '50s soul, grimy '70s funk and plaintive piano penmanship ("Southern Nights") of the Allen Toussaint songbook.

Throughout, Cleary comes on like a chicken-fried Van Morrison, with subtle croon, economical chops, little acrobatics, lots of finger-snap and hand-clap percussion, tasty guest turns (Mac Rebennack himself) and an unerring reverence for Toussaint's humid, bass-heavy grooves. Production leans a bit toward the slick side ("Poor Boy Got to Move" is definitely a Quiet Storm clunker), but shortfalls are inevitable when attempting tribute to an act of such button-down class, musical elegance and sheer spiritual virtuosity.


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