Allison in 1975
|Birth name||Mose John Allison Jr.|
November 11, 1927|
Tippo, Mississippi, U.S.
|Died||November 15, 2016
Hilton Head, South Carolina, U.S.
|Genres||Jazz, jazz blues, blues|
|Instruments||Piano, vocals, trumpet|
Mose John Allison Jr. (November 11, 1927 – November 15, 2016) was an American jazz and blues pianist, singer, and songwriter. He became notable for playing a unique mix of blues and modern jazz, both singing and playing piano. After moving to New York in 1956, he worked primarily in jazz settings, playing with jazz musicians like Stan Getz, Al Cohn, and Zoot Sims, along with producing numerous recordings.
He is described as having been "one of the finest songwriters in 20th-century blues." His songs were strongly dependent on evoking moods, with his individualistic, "quirky", and subtle ironic humor. His writing influence on R&B had well-known fans recording his songs, among them Pete Townshend, who recorded his "A Young Man's Blues" for The Who's "Live At Leeds" album in 1970. John Mayall was one of dozens who recorded his classic, "Parchman Farm", and Georgie Fame used many of Allison's songs. Others who recorded his songs included Leon Russell ("I'm Smashed") and Bonnie Raitt ("Everybody's Crying' Mercy").
The 1980s saw an increase in his popularity with new fans drawn to his unique blend of modern jazz. In the 1990s he began recording more consistently. Van Morrison and Ben Sidran collaborated with him on a tribute album, "Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison". The Pixies wrote the song "Allison" as a tribute.
Although Allison's personal profile has been limited, his music has nonetheless had an important influence on other performers, such as Tom Waits, Jimi Hendrix, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, and Pete Townshend. He was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006.
Allison was born outside Tippo, Mississippi, on his grandfather's farm, known as the Island, "because Tippo Bayou encircles it." He took piano lessons at 5, picked cotton, played piano in grammar school and trumpet in high school, and wrote his first song at 13.
Allison attended the University of Mississippi for a while, then enlisted in the U.S. Army for two years. Shortly after mustering out, he enrolled at Louisiana State University, from which he graduated in 1952 with a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in philosophy.
In 1956, Allison moved to New York City and launched his jazz career, performing with artists such as Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, and Phil Woods. His debut album, Back Country Suite, was issued by Prestige in 1957. He formed his own trio in 1958, with Addison Farmer on bass and Nick Stabulas on drums.
It was not until 1963 that his record label allowed him to release an album entirely of vocals. Entitled Mose Allison Sings, it was a compilation of songs from his previous Prestige albums that paid tribute to artists of the Mojo Triangle: Sonny Boy Williamson ("Eyesight to the Blind"), Jimmy Rogers ("That's All Right"), and Willie Dixon ("The Seventh Son"). However, an original composition on the album brought him the most attention – "Parchman Farm". For more than two decades, "Parchman Farm" was his most requested song. He dropped it from his playlist in the 1980s because some critics felt it was politically incorrect. Allison explained in an interview, "I don't do the cotton sack songs much anymore. You go to the Mississippi Delta and there are no cotton sacks. It's all machines and chemicals."
Prestige tried to market Allison as a pop star, but Columbia and later Atlantic tried to market him as a blues artist. Because he sang blues, Jet magazine thought that he was black and wanted to interview him.
His album The Way of the World, released in March 2010, was his first after a 12-year absence from the recording studio. In 2012, Allison was honored with a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail in his hometown of Tippo. On January 14, 2013, he was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, the nation's highest honor in jazz, in a ceremony at Lincoln Center in New York.
Allison wrote some 150 songs. His performances were described as being "delivered in a casual conversational way with a melodic southern accented tone that has a pitch and range ideally suited to his idiosyncratic phrasing, laconic approach and ironic sense of humour."
Influence and legacy
It was said that Allison had been a social critic before Dylan and a music satirist before Randy Newman. 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 Georgie Fame, who described him as "more important than Bob Dylan". Blue Cheer 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". Manfred Mann also recorded a version for the BBC. Jethro Tull keyboardist John Evans was influenced by Allison's piano playing, which he described as "so deceptively simple and impressive."
Allison helped open the "blues' racial divide, proving that a white man from rural Mississippi could hold his own in a traditionally black genre." The effort proved difficult, which he describes in his lyrics: "Well the blues police from down in Dixieland/Tried to catch me with the goods on hand/Ever since the white boy stole the blues," words he sings on "Ever Since I Stole the Blues," one of his most famous songs.
His song "Look Here" was covered by the Clash on their album Sandinista!. Leon Russell covered Allison's song "Smashed!" on his album Stop All That Jazz. Allison performed with Van Morrison, Georgie Fame, and Ben Sidran on the album 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). Dani Klein, of the Belgian music act Vaya Con Dios, recorded "Mind on Vacation" on the album Roots and Wings.
Frank Black of the Pixies has said that the song "Allison" from the album Bossanova is about Mose Allison. The film The Whole Nine Yards begins with Allison's song "I Don't Worry About a Thing" during the opening credits. Americana singer-songwriter Greg Brown wrote and performed the song "Mose Allison Played Here" on his 1997 album Slant 6 Mind.
Personal life and death
Mose married his wife, Audre, in 1949. They lived on Long Island, where they raised four children, including a daughter, Amy, who is a musician. Audre Allison said that when she first met Mose "I could tell that he was someone who generated his own joy." She also said that "Mose has always paid attention to what is happening in the world, and has always read voraciously both past and present histories."
Political and cultural views
Allison was reported to have strong views about "the domination of money over everything, the growing lack of empathy on the part of the powers-that-be for the population, wars and more wars, and an underlying hypocrisy in society" and the arrogance of colonizers of the Americas.
- 1957 : Back Country Suite (Prestige)
- 1957 : Local Color (Prestige)
- 1958 : Young Man Mose (Prestige)
- 1958 : Ramblin' with Mose (Prestige)
- 1958 : Creek Bank (Prestige)
- 1959 : Autumn Song (Prestige)
- 1959 : Transfiguration of Hiram Brown (Columbia)
- 1960 : I Love the Life I Live (Columbia)
- 1961 : Takes to the Hills (Epic) (re-released in 1966 as V-8 Ford Blues)
- 1962 : I Don't Worry About a Thing (Atlantic)
- 1962 : Swingin' Machine (Atlantic)
- 1963 : Mose Allison Sings (Prestige)
- 1964 : The Word from Mose (Atlantic)
- 1965 : Wild Man on the Loose (Atlantic)
- 1965 : Mose Alive! (Atlantic)
- 1968 : I've Been Doin' Some Thinkin' (Atlantic)
- 1969 : Hello There, Universe (Atlantic)
- 1971 : Western Man (Atlantic)
- 1972 : Mose in Your Ear (Atlantic)
- 1976 : Your Mind Is on Vacation (Atlantic)
- 1978 : Pure Mose (32 Jazz), live recordings
- 1982 : Middle Class White Boy (Discovery)
- 1982 : Lessons in Living [live] (Elektra)
- 1987 : Ever Since the World Ended (Blue Note)
- 1989 : My Backyard (Blue Note)
- 1993 : The Earth Wants You [live] (Blue Note)
- 1996 : Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison (Verve), with Van Morrison, Georgie Fame and Ben Sidran
- 1997 : Gimcracks and Gewgaws (Blue Note)
- 2001 : The Mose Chronicles: Live in London, vol. 1 (Blue Note)
- 2002 : The Mose Chronicles: Live in London, vol. 2 (Blue Note)
- 2010 : The Way of the World (ANTI-)
- 2015: "Mose Allison American Legend Live in California" (IBis Recordings)
- IBis: http://www.moseallisonamericanlegend.com
- 1963 : Mose Allison Sings (Prestige 7279)
- 1965 : Down Home Piano (Prestige 7423)
- 1965 : Mose Allison Plays for Lovers (Prestige 7446)
- 1970 : The Best of Mose Allison (Atlantic; re-released on CD with 7 additional tracks in 1988)
- 1972(?) : Retrospective (Columbia)
- 1979 : Ol' Devil Mose [compilation] (Prestige 24089)
- 1994 : Allison Wonderland Anthology (Rhino)
With Al Cohn
- The Al Cohn Quintet Featuring Bobby Brookmeyer (Coral, 1956), with Bob Brookmeyer
- Al and Zoot (Coral, 1957), the Al Cohn Quintet, featuring Zoot Sims
- Jazz Alive! A Night at the Half Note (United Artists, 1959), with Zoot Sims and Phil Woods
With Stan Getz
- The Soft Swing (Verve, 1957)
- Cook, Richard (2005). Richard Cook's Jazz Encycolpedia. London: Penguin Books. p. 10. ISBN 0-141-00646-3.
- Bogddanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris, editors, All Music Guide to the Blues: The Definitive Guide to the Blues, Hal Leonard Corp. (2003) p. 7
- Komara, Edward; Lee, Peter. editors. The Blues Encyclopedia, Routledge (2006) p. 22
- "Allison", by the Pixies
- Long Island Music Hall of Fame
- "Mose Allison". Blues Access. Spring 1998. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
- "Interview: Mose Allison (Part 1)". JazzWax. September 9, 2010. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- Feather, Leonard & Gitler, Ira (2007) The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz', Oxford University Press, p. 14.
- Allison, Mose. "Interview: How Joe Henry Coaxed Mose Allison, and His Tongue, Back into the Studio". NPR. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- "An interview with jazz and blues singer Mose Allison, World Socialist Web Site". Wsws.org. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- Myers, Mark (September 9, 2010). "Interview: Mose Allison (Part 1)". Retrieved March 4, 2014.
- Dickerson, James L. (2005). Mojo Triangle: Birthplace of Country, Blues, Jazz and Rock 'n' Roll (Schirmer Trade Books), pp. 110–112.
- Lawrence, Stratton (January 24, 2012). "Mose Allison Doesn't Let It Go to His Head". Charleston City Paper. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- 901 Interview (May 1987), Nine-O-One Network Magazine, p. 6.
- "Jazz Profiles from NPR: Mose Allison". NPR. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
- "Mose Allison Official Web Site". 2010. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
- "Mose Allison". Msbluestrail.org. November 11, 1927. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- "NEA Jazz Masters". Arts.gov. November 11, 1927. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- "In-Depth: Mose Allison...". Properganda Online. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- Rabey, Brian. A Passion Play: The Story Of Ian Anderson & Jethro Tull, Soundcheck Books (2013) p. 13
- "Ever Since I Stole The Blues" recording
- AlecEiffel.net Pixies Titles/Names. Retrieved on April 1, 2008. Archived June 28, 2007, at WebCite
- "I Don't Worry About A Thing", from The Whole Nine Yards film
- "Mose Allison Played Here", sung by Greg Brown
- Covers by Herman Brood, Second Hand Songs
- "Biography". MoseAllison.com. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- "Audre Allison: On a Joyride Called Life". Itsallpink.com. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- "RIP Mose Allison, One-of-a-Kind Jazz Pianist/Songwriter".
- Mose Allison albums, Discogs
- Mose Allison web site
- Mose Allison discography, AllMusic
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