Mose Allison - piano, vocals; Slam Stewart - bass; Jo Jones - drums
Mose Allison, the Mississippi-born pianist-composer and singer of witty ditties, unveiled his ingratiating Southern style at a Friday evening set of the 1964 Newport Jazz Festival. Allison had burst onto the scene in 1957 with his surprising 1957 Prestige debut, Back Country Suite (his "Young Man Blues" from that album had a major impact on the British blues boom of the early '60s and was subsequently covered by The Who on their 1970 classic, Live at Leeds). He continued to charm critics and fans alike with Young Man Mose, Ramblin' with Mose and Autumn Song, all on Prestige. By 1964, Allison was a bona fide star with an Atlantic Records contract. Known for his quirky bop-meets-boogie piano style and literate verse (he was dubbed "the William Faulkner of jazz" by one critic), Allison has been charming audiences for six decades with his laconic style and incisive wit. And at age 82, he shows no signs of slowing down.
For this '64 Newport performance, Allison was joined by the regal rhythm tandem of bassist Slam Stewart (a former sideman to Art Tatum) and drummer Jo Jones (part of Count Basie's All-American Rhythm Section from the '30s). They open with an uptempo, decidedly Monk-ish extrapolation on "Three Little Words," a Tin Pan Alley chestnut introduced in 1930 by Bing Crosby and the Rhythm Boys with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. While Allison's outré approach here practically reinvents the piece, bassist Stewart sticks strictly to the familiar melody on his extended bowed solo (which also features his patented hum-along vocals in unison with his fluent lines). Indeed, Mose doesn't ever quote the melody exactly until the final few bars. Allison and Papa Jo also engage in some spirited exchanges of fours at the tag of this buoyant, uptempo opener.
Allison's laconic Southern style comes to the fore on a charming rendition of the bluesy "You Won't Let Me Go," which is underscored by Papa Jo's relaxed brushwork. The pianist again demonstrates the considerable influence of Thelonious Monk in his instrumental rendition of this Buddy Johnson tune.
Mose introduces his idiosyncratic vocal style on Duke Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" (a tune he recorded back in 1958 on Young Man Mose), then injects some sarcasm into the set with his clever "Don't Forget to Smile," a soulful bluesy number he introduced earlier that year on his Atlantic album, The Song of Mose. He concludes his first-ever Newport set with the forcefully syncopated instrumental show-stopper "Power House," which Allison recorded later that year for this 1965 Atlantic album, Wild Man on the Loose. His highly personal, herky-jerky piano style, which derives partly from stride, ragtime and boogie-woogie with elements of bop thrown in, is on full display here.
Following his successful tenure with Atlantic Records through the '60s and into the '70s, Allison landed on Blue Note Records with a series of recordings through the '80s and '90s produced by Ben Sidran. After a lengthy stint of 12 years between studio recordings, Mose re-emerged on Anti Records in 2010 with the Joe Henry-produced The Way of the World, which shows his incisive wit and dark sense of humor as caustic and sharp as ever. (Milkowski)