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.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.