One of the most enduring singing piano players isn't Billy Joel or even Elton John. Mose Allison has been at it since Nat King Cole was dominating the charts and although he's slowed down a lot lately, the eighty-two year old was recently enticed back into the studio for the first time in a dozen years, the product of which came out last March 23. He picks up right where he left off with The Way Of The World, giving us the simple charm and wit that alone manages to elevate his music above the overcrowded field of piano jazz lounge singers/players. The other distinction is that Allison is just as much a blues guy as he is a jazz cat, and in reality, he's often taking some great blues tunes, his won or someone else's, and gives it a jazzy treatment. Paradoxically, his greatest areas of influence mostly fall outside of either blues or jazz: Pete Townsend and Ray Davies count him as a major source of inspiration and other major figures such as Tom Waits, Van Morrison and The Rolling Stones are counted as among his fans. Allison was and still is one of the hippest dudes to ever sit behind eighty-eight keys.
As someone who has always had a pulse on the blues, Allison is no stranger to Willie Dixon tunes; he practically made The Seventh Son" his own song way, way back in the late 1950s. This year's The Way Of The World likewise contains a Dixon tune. Well, sort of. My Brain" is an unabashed knockoff of My Babe," a Dixon song made immortal by blues harp legend Little Walter. But as one can already tell from the revamped title, Allison while keeping the melody intact shows us that his own wit is likewise intact:
My brain is steady workin, my brain My brain is steady workin', my brain My brain is always workin' as long as you can that coffee perkin' My brain, cool little cluster that's my brain...
As he reels off the verses with aplomb, Mose is motoring through the melody with rhythmic chords; he still is in enough command of his songs that the rhythm section can stay behind at a safe distance and let him do his thing.
My Brain" is only the beginning of another fine Mose Allison release. It's a mighty nice treat to still get this guy's best effort in the second decade of one century that's roughly on par with his output from around the middle of the prior one. Allison continues to delight older audiences while inspiring younger ones. It all emanates from that cool little cluster that's his brain.