Mose Allison

Blues Jazz

Mose John Allison, Jr, is an American jazz blues pianist and singer whose songs have been recorded by Van Morrison, the Who, Elvis Costello and the Clash.

Allison started playing piano by ear in grammar school and continued to play throughout high school and at Louisiana State University, where he graduated with a BA in English and a minor in Philosophy.

After serving in the U.S. Army, he moved to New York City to launch his jazz career performing with such artists as Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, and Phil Woods.

His debut album, “Back Country Suite”, was issued on the Prestige label in 1957 and, in 1958 he formed his own trio.

His music has influenced many blues and rock artists including Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, The Yardbirds, John Mayall, J. J. Cale, The Who (who made “Young Man Blues” a staple of their live performances and incorporated “Eyesight To The Blind” in Tommy), and Georgie Fame.

Blue Cheer also recorded a version of his song “Parchman Farm” on their debut album. The Yardbirds and The Misunderstood both recorded versions of his song “I’m Not Talking.”

His song “Look Here” was covered by The Clash on their album “Sandinista!” while Leon Russell covered Allison’s song “Smashed!” on his album “Stop All That Jazz” and Van Morrison released an album of his songs entitled “Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison.”

Elvis Costello recorded “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy” on his album “Kojak Variety” and “Your Mind Is On Vacation” on “King of America” (Bonus Tracks) and Frank Black of the Pixies claims that the song “Allison” off the album “Bossanova” is about Mose Allison. Black reiterates this at the beginning of the video “Allison.”

Allison’s first album in 12 years, “The Way of the World,” was released in March 2010.

Sound Observations With Mose Allison

By David Moye

At the age of 83, Mose Allison doesn’t care if he ever records another album again.

“I got 50 albums out including reissues and repackaging and none of them are selling based on the statements,” he said drolly.

“Droll” is the keyword with Allison. After all, this is the guy who wrote “I Don’t Worry About A Thing (I Know Nothing’s Gonna Be All Right),” so allow him his cynicism.

Still, that cynical side didn’t stop him from going in the studio back in 2009 to record “The Way Of The World,” which to these ears is certainly one of the best albums ever recorded by an octogenarian.

“I was talked into that album by Joe Henry,” Allison harrumphed. “We played a gig in Germany and he wanted to do it. He kept at it, even though I wasn’t looking to record. I figured I pretty much covered everything already.”

He’s got a point. After all, he’s been a recording artist for 54 years. And while he’s pretty much covered everything, Allison gets covered himself.

Although Allison’s bluesy vocals run on the mellow side, his songs have been especially popular with English bands known for their emotive styles, be it The Who, who recorded his song, “Young Man Blues,” to the Clash, which recorded “Look Here” on “Sandanista,” to Van Morrison, who recorded “Tell Me Something,” a tribute album to Allison with Allison as well as Ben Sidran and Georgie Fame.

“Those English rockers gave me a new generation,” he said, making sure to name check The Who, along with Elvis Costello.

But while Allison can take or leave the recording studio at this stage, he doesn’t want to stop performing ON stage.

“I insist on performing,” he said. “That’s where it happens for me.”

And on April 3, it will be happening at Anthology, where he has performed regularly since the club opened.

“It’s a big room, isn’t it?” he cracked.

This time, Allison is playing with bassist Gunnar Biggs, who he has played with a few times in the past and admires.

Still, no matter how many times he plays with a musician – or how many times he plays period – each show is different.

“Every night is a challenge,” he said. “It’s just like the first time.”

In the mean time, if you’re a musician who is looking for some great songs to do, Allison wouldn’t mind if you looked at his back catalog.

“I like everybody who does my stuff,” he said. “It’s always flattering when anybody does the song. I don’t worry much about what they do to it, because I mess with other people’s songs all the time.”

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“I don’t know any musicians who don’t love Mose Allison …, his appeal cuts across
all musical boundaries. In the over twenty years I’ve been going to see him live, he’s blown me away every time.” -Bonnie Raitt

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