In person, Mose Allison walks through the audience having a good time, meeting people and enjoying conversations prior to sitting down at the piano. Loose and relaxed, you'd never know he was the featured performer if you hadn't seen his photograph, and Allison seems to feel that everyone is his best friend. That message comes across in his music, too, of course. This latest release is 45 minutes of Allison's dry wit, his matching piano and vocal styles, and some tasteful soloing by Russell Malone and newcomer Mark Shim. The pianist's left hand hammers out a one-two rhythm that would seem to make a bassist unnecessary, but instead Allison employs bassists who can contribute much more than that. Ratzo Harris begins the title track with a loose washtub sound on his bass that introduces drummer Paul Motian's New Orleans shuffle rhythm, and together the ensemble provides music for listening, dancing, and for just nodding along.
Allison's piano delivery on "Somebody Gonna Have To Move (you're standing on my toe)" offers a continuous one-two rhythm behind a right-hand motion that twists and turns unexpectedly. Again, the piano work on "Fires of Spring" becomes intense with a full animated keyboard attack that simulates the lyric's intent; the tune refers to the Spring sunshine that annually brings new life and motion to our world. Guitarist Malone and tenor saxophonist Shim share the solo spotlight without pyrotechnics and with genuine charm. Malone stretches out admirably on "Cruise Control," "The More You Get (the more you've got to lose)," "What Will It Be (that puts you in your casket)," and "St. Louis Blues." Shim offers his trademark clear deep tone on "Gimcracks and Gewgaws," "MJA Jr," "So Tired," "Mockingbird," and "What's With You."
The deeply sentimental ballad "Texanna" pays tribute to "mother and wife / Did you really belong / Am I singing your song," with heartfelt emotion. Harris' bowed bass, Motian's brushes, and the drifting piano accompaniment offer a serene backdrop for the somber lyrics. Conversely, and with a tongue-in-cheek deadpan, the singer weaves intentionally out of tune on "Mockingbird" as Allison's lyrics point toward the bird that mimics calls of others: "Do you have your little rights and wrongs / Do you feel, are you real." And very unlike the mockingbird, Mose Allison continues to provide his own style of lyric, his own blues-drenched vocals, and well-crafted instrumental support. Recommended.