Occapella! consist of masterpieces from the quintessential New Orleans catalog of Allen Toussaint, performed with soulful virtuosity by Jon Cleary.Â As a fully embraced player in New Orleans music, English-born Cleary claims Toussaint a big influence on his adolescence. Having played alongside some serious heavyweights, himself – Â Kebâ€™Mo, Taj Mahal and India Arie, just to name a few – he had no trouble finding some friends to lend a hand with this project.
On the opening track, â€œLetâ€™s Get Low Down,â€ Bonnie Raitt and Dr. John join in for a gritty blues soul-stirrer.Â Cleary assaults his piano with acrobatic fingers, while Dr. John takes some nice runs on guitar.Â The albumâ€™s title cut solidifies the vocal power of Cleary, and his cohorts Jeffery â€œJellybeanâ€ Alexander and Derwin â€œBig Dâ€ Perkins, Â two long-standing members in his Absolute Monster Gentlemen band. Â From the opening backbeat to the flawless harmonies, the acapella on this track is divine.
Deeply rooted fans of New Orleans music and Toussaintâ€™s work will definitely respect and enjoy the obscurity of songs, like the island-flavored â€œPoor Boy Got to Moveâ€ and â€œWhen the Partyâ€™s Over.â€ And for listeners who werenâ€™t up to speed with Toussaintâ€™s work, this album offers Cliffâ€™s Notes to some of Americaâ€™s greatest songs. Toussaint is not only a great songwriter, he has some serious chops behind the keys. So when Cleary hits full stride on â€œFortune Teller,â€ his adoration for the music really shines. He romps and rolls up and down the keys, chugging with the locomotive of a song as it gains speed.
Of course, it is impossible not to note the spot-on â€œSouthern Nights.â€Â Quite possibly the biggest expression of Clearyâ€™s multi-instrumental talents, he pays great respect to one of Toussaintâ€™s best songs while reconstructing it in his own cloth.
There is not much better representation of the heart and soul of the the Crescent City than the play of Cleary and majesty of Toussaintâ€™s songwriting.Â This definitely goes down as a must have for fans of New Orleans music.
Ocappella! is out now on FHQ Records.