For nearly 45 years, Mose Allison has been offering his unique combination of blues and modern jazz to audiences all over the world. Not only have Allison's compositions been recorded by the likes of Georgie Fame, The Who and Johnny Winter; but Allison has put his unique stamp on songs written by Willie Dixon, Robert Lockwood and W. C. Handy. Dubbed the "Sage of Tippo" (he was born in Tippo, Mississippi in 1927), the 75 year old Allison offers listeners a combination of note packed jazz piano runs and his cool, laid back vocal style.
On Friday night, I made my first ever visit to The Artist's Quarter in downtown St. Paul to see the venerable Allison. The Artist's Quarter is a warm jazz venue located in the lower level of the historic Hamm Building. Along with the large oak bar and ample seating, The Quarter is covered with pictures of jazz greats including the likes of Oscar Peterson, Miles Davis, Art Blakey and Dizzie Gillespie, just to name a few.
I last saw Mose Allison at a small jazz club in Phoenix, Arizona about four years ago and I was amazed at how little he had changed since that time. Casual and polite, Allison's demeanor reflects his laconic singing style and conceals his more overt and sometimes chaotic piano style. This was the second of six shows that Mose would be performing over three nights, backed by local jazzmen Billy Peterson on upright bass and Kenny Horst on drums.
Allison and Company opened with an extended instrumental number that featured each member of the combo in a solo role. Peterson and Horst proved to be a tight rhythm section behind Allison, doing an excellent job of keeping up with Allison's abrupt changes in tempo and style. Over the course of the 90-minute show, Allison performed twenty-one songs, including two in his brief encore. While the music never lost its clear jazz influence, Allison performed a range of songs including "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me" with music by Duke Ellington; Willie Dixon's timeless classic, "The Seventh Son"; and Muddy Water's "Baby Please Don't Go," along with several of his own compositions featuring his rapid fire piano and unique lyrics discussing life and how people lead (or mislead) it (all very tongue-in-cheek). The evening included original songs like "Middle Class White Boy;" "Your Mind Is on Vacation and Your Mouth Is Working Overtime;" "My Backyard;" and "It's Dyin' That Bothers Me."
During the performance, there were times that Allison made his piano sound like a horde of angry bees, while Horst, maintained the beat perfectly and Peterson literally strummed chords on his upright bass. The audience, a mixture of young and older jazz fans, was very appreciative applauding the exceptional performances of the three musicians and clamoring at the end for the much-appreciated two-song encore.
My four-year gap between Mose Allison performances was rewarded with an excellent show and a chance to say hello to the jazzman from Tippo, Mississippi. Given the vigor and ageless ability of Mose Allison, I am confident that I will be able to see him again sometime in the future, though preferably not four years from now.
To check out upcoming shows at The Artist's Quarter visit them online at http://www.mnjazz.com/aq
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This review is copyright © 2002 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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