With fifty-plus years of performance behind him, the 73 year-old Mose Allison continues to perform 125 shows per year. The Mississippi-born pianist traveled to New York in 1951, but his music has never left the Delta. His brand of blues-inflected jazz was first inspired by Louis Jordan and his piano trio has been heavily influenced by Nat Cole. Like Cole, he began as an instrumentalist but his unique vocals and lyrics created a demand for his vocal appearances. Modern pop musicians like Pete Townshend, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, and Eric Clapton have covered Allison’s songs. His discography is lengthy, and jumping into Mose Allison anywhere from his early Prestige disc to his Columbia and Atlantic days yields satisfying results. A good overview is a 1994 Rhino Record compilation Allison Wonderland. Since 1987 he has been a Blue Note Artist recording his sounds in groups usually extended by guest artists. 1998’s Gimcracks And Gewgaws was a gem of a studio date with drummer Paul Motian, saxophonist Mark Shim, and guitarist Russell Malone.
Allison’s latest offering is a live date with his regular working band. Taken from three nights of a three-week gig at London’s Pizza Express, he sprinkles his favorite tunes in between blues and jazz favorites. Like a true bluesman, his mature lyrics reveal the human condition. In “Gettin’ There,” he signals hope yet reality as in “If I was selling fantasies, I’d be a millionaire...But I’m not disillusioned, but I’m gettin’ there.” In the modern pop-music world filled with puberty-angst and gangster posing, Allison speaks to those of us who have emotionally graduated from high school. He writes, “Everybody’s cryn’ justice, just-as long as it’s business first.” Like a modern Mark Twain, Allison’s astute observations are delivered from his very-ironic heart. The trio takes on “You Are My Sunshine” as a slow blues piece, revealing a sarcastic side I never knew this elementary-school or senior-citizen home favorite contained. But then, an Allison record is more than just a turn of a phrase. The disc opens with an instrumental and throughout this date he displays his talented blues-drenched piano like his Delta-honed vocals; his piano stylings show Allison’s unique vision of or world that has absorbed boogie-woogie, bebop and classical influences.
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