Jazz Vocals

Twice The Mose


Mose Allison turned 80 this year, yet maintains a touring schedule that would exhaust musicians half his age. The Mississippi Delta-bred pianist, singer and songwriter began his career playing a juke joint located inside a gas station, a fitting start for a musical personality that is equal parts iconoclastic whimsy and Deep South authenticity. The recently remastered "two-fer," titled Mose Allison, showcases this driven sound.

Prestige recently released the compilation of studio sessions, which were originally presented as the two albums Back Country Suite and Local Color. Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in 1957, these releases capture Mose's classic trio format, backed by his longtime bassist Taylor LaFargue and Frank Isola on drums.

Mose's vocal compositions, bluesy, humorous and sometimes bitterly honest have been covered by a diverse and distinctly non-jazz-playing group of British fans -- Blue Cheer, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, The Clash and Pete Townsend (who contributes an affectionate homage in the liner notes of this CD). No wonder Allison travels annually to London to perform a six-week engagement.

Like his idol, Nat King Cole, Allison's piano chops have often been overshadowed by his singing and songwriting. But this CD, with its majority of instrumental cuts, is a revelation. Often compared to Monk's bare-boned piano style, he shows a style and command of the instrument more sophisticated than he is given credit for. Blues-based compositions are elaborated with the more complex harmonies of bop, reminiscent of his contemporary, Bud Powell. Jazz or blues, "It all comes from the same place," Allison says.