Enjoying Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen at Chickie Wah Wah

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When I got to New Orleans on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go hear live music. There weren’t any brass bands performing anywhere as far as I could tell, so I ultimately decided to head to a venue on Canal Street called Chickie Wah Wah where a pianist named Jon Cleary was playing with his band the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. I had never been to this particular spot before, although I had heard of it, and of course I knew of Jon Cleary, who had moved from England to New Orleans in the 1970’s and had stayed. I found the venue to be relatively small, but packed to the rafters, sharing its space with a barbecue stand called Blue Moon that smelled so good it made me sorry I had already eaten. Cleary, of course, is an amazing pianist, showing influences from Professor Longhair and James Booker, but his band is quite funky, even contemporary, and his choice of songs ran the gamut from originals to classics like “Those Lonely, Lonely Nights” and even the ska oldie “The Loving Pauper.” I was further amazed to run into a Memphian who had never met me, but who recognized me from Facebook and who was enjoying the music with his New orleans girlfriend. I told them about the second-line on the following day, and was sorry to see the music end at 1 AM or so.

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