As jazz singers go, Mose Allison can sing with the best of them. He plays the piano with flair and finesse. But what really sets him apart from all the others is his wit, both the intelligent wit of his lyrics and the almost post-modern irony of his performance. This is a singer whose mind is definitely not on vacation while his mouth works overtime. Trouble is that now in his eighth decade, he had given up performing live for quite some time. So if the opportunity arises to hear the man do his thing once again even if it’s on a recording, it’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.
Mose Allison: American Legend – Live in California is that opportunity. Recorded live at 19 Broadway in Fairfax, California in October of 2006, the album, released in September, features 19 tracks of the singer’s original compositions, spiced with some fine covers by the likes of Duke Ellington, Big Joe Williams, and Percy Mayfield. At almost 79 at the time, Allison has lost none of his zest and puts in a masterful set.
Joined by Bill Douglass on bass and drummer Pete Magadini, he opens with the artfully crafted irony of one of his best, “I Don’t Want Much.” Here’s a sample for those unfamiliar with the Allison wit:
Just never seem to get enough
Want salvation, paradise and all that stuff
But I’m so easy going
Don’t even keep the score
All I want is plenty, but I will take more.
He continues with signature pieces like “Certified Senior Citizen,” “Your Mind Is On Vacation,” “Ever Since the World Ended” and “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy.” Standards include a killer take on “You Are My Sunshine,” John Loudermilk’s clever “You Call It Joggin’,” “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me,” and “Baby Please Don’t Go.” The album ends with a bonus track that has the trio doing an instrumental called “No Name.”
Allison may indeed be a certified senior, but just don’t give him that “old timer crap.” More like him isn’t all that bad.
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