Jon Cleary, Dyna-Mite (FHQ Records)

From the very opening of the title cut of Dyna-Mite there’s no doubt that the album’s musical roots lie deep in New Orleans. Jon Cleary might have been born in England, but his piano playing, sense of rhythm and funk tell a different story. He is and has long been considered an adopted son of this city. This tune has all the New Orleans rhythm and blues essentials and most importantly Cleary’s lilting piano, which echoes those greats like Fess and Allen Toussaint who influenced him down to his soul. There are other touches too like the repeated refrain, “Don’t tell nobody,” that is most associated with the classic “I’ve Got Big Fat Woman.” Leo Nocentelli’s guitar licks with Jamison Ross’ drums laying down the rhythm just emphasize the whole New Orleans experience. Of course, Cleary adds his own unique bag of humorous, lyrical tricks. Dig that in listing the personnel on the cut, it simply describes the additional singers as “a whole gang on background vocals.”

reviews-jonclearyOften, “a whole gang of horns” would have summed up those blowing on cuts like the soul groove tune, “Unputdownable,” which includes the trinity of trombone, saxophone and trumpet—Charlie Halloran, Ryan Zoidis and Eric “Benny” Bloom, respectively.

Narrowing down the participants considerably, Cleary and drummer Ross go it alone on the reggae, “soon come” rhythm of “Big Greasy.” As he is often throughout the album, Cleary is on piano, guitar and Hammond B3, as well as bass in this case.

Cleary’s pen was at work on every cut of the album including a collaboration with blues legend Taj Mahal on the ballad “21st Century Gypsy Singing Lover Man.”

Old school, late night New Orleans soulful R&B, the kind that couples on a dance floor barely move to, finds a strong place in the album’s stylistic mix with Cleary’s heartbreaker, “Best Ain’t Good Enuff.” The background vocals of Nigel Hall, who is often featured on keyboards throughout the disc, Jamison Ross and Quiana Lynell provide the perfect foundation for Cleary’s voice and emotional interjections.

The album dances out with a very catchy “All Good Things,” and as the saying and the lyrics continue, “…got to come to an end.” Apparently, Cleary wasn’t ready to let it go as he adds a full minute piano solo coda to take it out.

Like the explosive Jon Cleary himself, Dyna-Mite is simply a blast.