274

Mose Allison at Nighttown

Matt Marshall By

Sign in to view read count
Nighttown
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
August 29, 2009

Mose Allison sings for survivors. He always has. He sings easy, buoyant blues in a lackadaisical style. His voice, while rubbed at the edges from more than 50 years on the road, is still crisp with vaudevillian nonchalance. He accompanies himself with confident, insistent piano vamps drawn as much from Wagner as Fats Waller, and his solos are constantly inventive and invigorating while never straying from the familiar. Moreover, the technical verve hasn't left his fingers.

On this, the second of two nights at Nighttown, Allison and his trio, bassist Marty Block and drummer Roy King, ran through two 19-song sets (the second with an additional two-song encore) in less than 90 minutes each. Yet nothing felt rushed. And while most of the songs stuck to established formula—blues with a brief piano solo to break up the singing—the routine never grew tiresome. Such is the magic of Mose.

Clad in an outsized cream jacket and Adidas tennis shoes, and sporting his now-signature clipped white beard, Allison seemed the sly third brother of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and George Carlin. Not an odd fit for the old English and philosophy major whose humorous wordplay has delighted several generations.

He opened both sets with a musical number that gave ample room for both Block and King to stretch, before jumping into the songs. In addition to his own material, Allison played blues from some of his favorite musicians and composers, such as Percy Mayfield, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Johnny Fuller. He also gave a nod to Cleveland by singing "Who's Loving You Tonight?" a composition by the city's favorite adopted blues son, the late, great Robert Lockwood Jr. Originals and covers alike were presented in Allison's patented chugging style—each number a testament to the power of shrugging off hardship with a giggle.

"I'd never have made it this far, if I couldn't laugh," Allison's songs continually suggested. It was there in "Your Molecular Structure," with its Carlinesque techno-jumble ("A high frequency modulated Jezebel / Thermodynamically, you're getting to me"), in the life-as-fantasy of "What's Your Movie?" ("Are you standing up singing as your ship goes down?"), and in the apocalyptic acceptance of "Ever Since the World Ended," which suggests "It's just as well / We couldn't have taken much more" and yet, at song's end, proclaims, "I face the future with a smile." Now that's positive resilience.

At times, Allison's singing strayed far afield from a song's original melody—sometimes intentionally, other times, perhaps, more from the ill effects of age. But Allison's spell was never broken. And often, as with his "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds" encore, the flattening of a melody into the Allison mold produced an off-the-cuff, comical effect that invigorated a long-since worn-out tune. And the melodious Duke Ellington standard "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me," while handled faithfully, was given a wonderful Allisonian touch at its close, with the "you" in "and you never will" lifted and stretched into a hayseed yodel, beneath which Allison layered the gravitas of a classical piano motif. It was a misdirection that so ingeniously highlighted the song's lyrics and is so typical of Allison's music in general. Should I laugh or should I cry? the listener asks. There's little doubt how the road warrior pianist Allison would answer. Choose the former, you'll live longer.


Photo Credit
Matt Marshall


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Panama Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Panama Jazz Festival 2017
by Mark Holston
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom Live Reviews Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
by Geoff Anderson
Published: February 20, 2017
Read The Cookers at Nighttown Live Reviews The Cookers at Nighttown
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: February 16, 2017
Read Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens Live Reviews Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 15, 2017
Read "Ralph Peterson's Triangular III at Nighttown" Live Reviews Ralph Peterson's Triangular III at Nighttown
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: April 18, 2016
Read "Lisa Fischer & Grand Baton At UCD Mondavi Center" Live Reviews Lisa Fischer & Grand Baton At UCD Mondavi Center
by Walter Atkins
Published: February 27, 2016
Read "Vossa Jazz 2016" Live Reviews Vossa Jazz 2016
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 1, 2016
Read "The Rhythm Future Quartet at The Evening Muse" Live Reviews The Rhythm Future Quartet at The Evening Muse
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 29, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!