In-Depth: Mose Allison…

For our August in-depth feature, writer and blues enthusiast Ken Smith takes a look back at Mose Allison‘s career ahead of his week-long residency at London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club from 3rd August 2011. Click on the following links to read our previous in-depth features on Baaba Maal, Weather Report, Nic Jones, Mary Gauthier and The Watersons.

Mose Allison (photo © Michael Wilson)Mose Allison was born during the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1927 in Tippo, Tallahatchie County, north-west Mississippi. In those days, Tippo was a small community described by Mose as “just a crossroads, coupla general stores, a gas station and cotton gin, lots of dust, lots of mud”. In this rural outpost, kids like Mose were expected to help out on the family farm so he did his share of ploughing with mules, chopping cotton and cutting hay. In fact, he’s one of the few remaining blues singers who can boast they’ve actually had that experience.

Nothing much happened around Tippo but the county gained some notoriety during the sixties with Bobby Gentry’s hit Ode To Billy Joe: remember the mystery of exactly what it was that Billy Joe McAllister threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge? That was just a song but in 1955 a chilling, historically important event had happened for real a few miles from Tippo. Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy from Chicago was visiting relatives when he was accused of whistling at a white woman and murdered. When his body was dragged from the Tallahatchie River, the publicity surrounding the murder ignited the fury of the civil rights movement; Bob Dylan’s The Death Of Emmett Till relays the full horror.

The Allison farmhouse reverberated with music thanks to his father, Mose Senior, who had a natural affinity for black music. He played piano rolls, 78s and regularly sat at his piano and let loose with a selection of Fats Waller songs. Self-taught, he also played stride piano on a semi-professional basis locally. Most Sundays, he’d roll back the carpets at home and jam with Percy Walker, a local one-man band who loved to whack out boogie woogie and some pretty raw blues.

Mose Allison Mose Allison Mose Allison

Had his father been of upper crust southern stock, Mose Junior would probably have been instructed in classical music; although he did take piano lessons from an early age he had little interest in practising so his teacher, weary of his ‘hunt and peck’ approach, sent him on his way. His father owned the gas station so that was where the young Mose spent his days. At that time, black labourers swarmed round for Cokes and Jax Beer so naturally the jukebox reverberated with the latest black music hits. Mose absorbed the sounds and rhythm of the blues like blotting paper. This was the early forties so the jukebox would have been loaded with records put out on the Bluebird, OKeh, Vocalion and Decca labels and Mose would have his choice of the latest hits like Tommy McClennan’s New Highway 51 Blues, Robert Petway’s Catfish Blues, Lonnie Johnson’s Crowing Rooster, Memphis Minnie’s Me And My Chauffeur, Big Maceo’s Worried Life Blues and Big Joe Williams’ smash hits Crawling King Snake and Highway 49 Blues. Mose said of that time: “Back then, I never had to buy records, the blues was always in the air, a few people around the area had guitars and there was always a lot of singing. Someone sittin’ on a porch whistling the blues and there was also the occasional itinerant blues singer.”

In fact, the whole area was a hotbed of blues activity with soon-to-be-legendary musicians prowling around the nearby countryside. Sunnyland Slim could be found playing local clubs in Vance, Howlin’ Wolf was working at the same Dockery farms as Charley Patton when he’d previously perfected his tough vocal delivery at the local juke joints. Sonny Boy Williamson must have been planning his escape from Glendora to Chicago and Chess Records. Fred McDowell was living in the hills around Como and Albert King was in Indianola honing his new electric guitar sound while Mississippi John Hurt, although living in obscurity in Avalon, was still playing for family and friends. Clarksdale blues veterans Son House and Willie Brown had been rediscovered by the Library of Congress scout Alan Lomax who had also recorded the young Muddy Waters on Stovall’s Plantation and Bukka White too while he was languishing in Camp No.10, Parchman Farm State Penitentiary just to the west of Tippo. And all this happened within a 40 mile radius of Mose’s home town.

Blues guitarists, who worked on nearby plantations, played at Saturday night fish fries and juke joints were springing up around the country towns dotted alongside Highway 51 and Highway 49. Mose, with his voracious appetite for music, investigated everything he could locally and then went further afield to see musicians like Phineas Newborn & His Orchestra, BB King’s first musical director/sax player Bill Harvey and Tuff Green & His Rocketeers who Mose considers to be the very first rock ’n’ roll band. Memphis drew him like a magnet. In a 1998 interview he told Stanley Booth he loved “the Beale Street Auditorium where they had the big shows, that’s where I saw the original Sonny Boy Williamson… I don’t think he was even advertised – he walked on by himself, toward the end of the show, and played a few numbers, just playin’ harmonica and singin’ by himself, and it just floored me, man. The power of it – I thought ‘Oh man, yeah’.” The South left its indelible mark on Mose: “I think I probably learned everything that motivates me now before I left Tippo”. When interviewers ask him about his life in rural Mississippi, they always have a natural curiosity about how a white kid like him got involved in black music. His answer is simple – “I followed my ears”.

This love of the blues form has always been evident in his music and he still revels in it creating his versions of blues songs that he turns into his own classics. Throughout his career, the genre has played a huge part in his repertoire, whether in his own original blues-tinged musings or material from musicians he’s loved for years. Mose Allison recordings have included Big Joe Williams’ Baby Please Don’t Go, Jimmy Rogers’ That’s All Right, Buddy Johnson’s Since I Fell For You, Johnny Fuller’s Fool’s Paradise, Lightnin’ Hopkins’ 1949 obscurity Mad With You, Mercy Dee’s One Room Country Shack, Willie Love’s V-8 Ford Blues and Sonny Boy Williamson’s Eyesight To The Blind. Most famously, he took Willie Dixon’s I Love The Life I Live and Seventh Son and made them his own.

I Love The Life I Live taken from The Best Of Mose Allison (Sequel Records RSACD 814)

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The person who made the biggest impact of all on him was Percy Mayfield – a singer with a soft-edge baritone who bridged the gap between jazz and blues and wrote some of the most desolately beautiful blues ballads imaginable. A giant among songwriters, he wrote the wonderful 32-bar ballad Please Send Me Someone To Love, Ray Charles’ 1961 smash Hit The Road Jack and Stranger In My Home Town – the song Elvis picked to round out his Elvis In Memphis album. Mose loved Percy’s aching, tortured blues and made memorable recordings of them including Life Is Suicide and the magnificent Lost Mind, a song which contains lyrics that match Mose at his best: “Words would fail me if I tried to describe her, though I know she’s not all she should have been, she was the devil with the face of an angel, she was sweet and cruel, cruel and sweet as home made sin”. Mose once said “Of all my influences, more than anyone, was Percy Mayfield; he sang with complete naturalness and he wrote the same way”.

So far, I’ve concentrated on Mose’s blues roots but of course, he was also immersed in that other great black music: jazz. Not only did his father play it but his cousin Elizabeth Staton, a jazz record collector, guided him to the sophisticated arrangements of recordings by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Earl Hines. The jazz piano players Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and John Lewis also influenced him but Nat King Cole was his favourite. And the steady diet of Fats Waller and the boogie woogie masters Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson at home made a lasting impression on him.

It wasn’t long before Mose began playing jazz in local clubs and gaining confidence working with dance bands when he should have been studying chemical engineering at the University of Mississippi. An 18-month stint in the army, playing in the officers’ clubs, also helped him to develop his piano style. It was around this time that he met his future wife Audre Mae, got his first professional gigs on the jazz circuit and decided that a move to New York was a necessity: “Most of my musical heroes were black and I couldn’t wait to get to a place where I could play with black musicians legally”. There he spent six months fooling around with bands and groups before linking up with tenor stars Zoot Sims and Al Cohn, adding his rhythmic ideas and arresting melodic swing technique to their freewheeling, hard-bopping, roller-coasting music. In addition to the Cohn-Sims shows, he was gigging with other big names like Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker and gathering experience in recording studios: he worked on a 1956 session with Al Cohn and Bob Brookmeyer, a live album with Stan Getz and Shelly Manne and a studio LP with Getz called The Soft Swing. All this time, he was still developing his own sound and gaining enough confidence to start his career as a solo artist, culminating in Prestige Records offering him a six album contract at $250 an album.

So how does Mose sound? His voice has been described as a cross between Hoagy Carmichael and Trummy Young but really, the only link with Carmichael is that they’re both southerners who write great songs. If anything, Mose’s style resonates with Nat King Cole, Charles Brown and Percy Mayfield but at no point does he attempt to copy them and although he recorded many blues tunes and blended the genre into his own style, there’s no way you’d mistake him for being a black singer. Blues was a foundation but he personalised the genre to suit his ironic, sardonic approach, preserving the tonality and the texture of the blues but with his own ideas firmly in place. This has made his vocal style unique. His songs are 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.

His song Parchman Farm perfectly illustrates this. In it, he rhythmically describes the grim frustration of incarceration and the back-breaking work until the very last punch line: “Gonna be here for the rest of my life… and all I did was shoot my wife” (a line that always delighted a live audience although Mose later conceded to writer Irwin Chusid, “it’s not funny anymore” – a thought that maybe prompted him to rewrite the song as New Parchman on his 1965 Atlantic album The Word From Mose). As for his piano playing, when Mose described it as “casual, not flashy, but it’ll get you there in the end”, he was being too modest. His playing has a jazzy swing that interrelates perfectly with his vocals and on instrumentals he has a precision, accuracy and verve that is captivating. He is relaxed, unhurried, reflective and at times humorous. Listen to the playfulness he displays on the piano solo of One Room Country Shack – his delayed phrasing on the solo is thrilling.

Now back to the story…over the years, an idea had been germinating in Mose’s mind to record a collection of folk-based melodies that reflected life in a small southern town leaning on his own early experiences in the deep rural southern landscape. At this time he had an interest in the music of the Hungarian classical composer Bela Bartok and, after studying Bartok’s folk impressions for piano, Hungarian Sketches, Mose felt inspired to write his suite for jazz piano. Recorded in 1957, Back Country Suite was his first Prestige album. It contains ten tracks ranging from the vibrant urgency of Train and the laid-back serenity of Warm Night, to the stark melancholy of January and the frenetic chords and jumping groove of Highway 49. These are followed by beautiful arrangements of Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill, Carmichael-Van Heusen’s easy rolling I Thought About You and the bluesy ballad You Won’t Let Me Go. But the most startling tracks on the album are the two vocal numbers: a languid down-home rendition of Mercy Dee’s classic One Room Country Shack with its insistent free-style piano work and Blues, a song that was to create quite a stir in the sixties. Back Country Suite received excellent reviews and the radio networks gave it plenty of needle-time so Prestige (whose roster included Charlie Mingus, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk) wasted no time in getting Mose back in the studio for his second album eight months later.

Local Color Young Man Mose

Ramblin' With Mose Creek Bank

Album number two, Local Color, features Mose with a set of descriptive blues-based tunes about life in a small Mississippi town. There is a gently contemplative feel on Crepuscular Air, controlled exuberance on Carnival and a bit of muscular bite on Town followed by two strong blues vocals – Percy Mayfield’s wonderful Lost Mind and, surely the most famous Mose Allison recording ever, Parchman Farm. His next Prestige LPs were 1958’s Young Man Mose, Ramblin’ With Mose and Creek Bank. Recorded in 1959, Autumn Song was his last for the label and contains intricate and adventurous instrumentals along with a couple of hard blues vocal tracks: Jimmy Roger’s That’s Alright and Sonny Boy Williamson’s Eyesight To The Blind.

Mose Allison Trio recorded in Hackensack, New Jersey, USA on 13th February 1959 with Addison Farmer (bass) and Ronnie Free (drums)

When the deal with Prestige was at an end, Columbia was sniffing around and he signed for them in 1959, quickly recording The Transfiguration Of Hiram Brown, a more sophisticated version of his first LP. Although it is a worthy effort and Mose considered it an admirable performance, the critics virtually ignored it. Mose said on the reissue notes in 1994: “For years after this was made, I told everyone that it was my best recorded instrumental performance and I may have been right”.

Autumn Song Transfiguration of Hiram Brown

I Love The Life I Live Mose Allison Takes To The Hills

The follow-up LP I Love The Life I Live, is alive with great blues like Johnny Fuller’s Fool’s Paradise, Lightnin’ Hopkins’ Mad With You, swinging jazz items such as You’re A Sweetheart and I Ain’t Got Nobody, along with storming instrumentals like Path and You Turned The Tables On Me, but his tenure at Columbia was coming to an end. There was just to be one more LP, Mose Allison Takes To The Hills (or V-8 Ford Blues on its 1966 Epic reissue) which, despite its reuse of half a dozen tracks from the first two albums, has some great moments with Willie Love’s toughV-8 Ford Blues, Percy Mayfield’s smash Life Is Suicide and the sardonic Mose original Ask Me Nice. The LP didn’t make much of an impression in 1961 but if you happen to come across a CD copy, snap it up because there’s some fine music, the highlights being some pretty brisk piano instrumentals (e.g. The Hills) tacked on at the end of the original album.

The Hills taken from V-8 Ford Blues (Epic/Legacy EK 57878)

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Sleeve writer Billy James gets to the bottom of Mose’s vocal style when he asked him, “You seem to be carrying on a tradition that is ignored by most singers. How are you able to work in this area and, at the same time, continue to grow musically?” Mose responded, “I don’t do the tunes the way they were done originally. First of all, I always intend to swing. Then I try to change, based on what I hear now, and allow new things to sometime complement and sometime contrast with country blues.” When James went on to ask what factors determined his choices when he sang standards, Allison replied, “The standards I pick have to have rhythmical phrasing and a certain harmony. When I sing I use blues harmony and the standards have to fit.”

By this time, Mose was tiring of his Columbia contract. At first he’d been free to play his own brand of music but when his records didn’t sell fast enough, company executives took no time in encouraging him to change direction but they really hadn’t a clue. They didn’t know how to market him and he knew it, so in 1961 he was glad to sign to Atlantic where his label mates included Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, The Modern Jazz Quartet, John Coltrane, Mel Torme, Herbie Mann, Art Farmer, Jack McDuff, Chick Corea, King Curtis, Keith Jarrett and Roland Kirk as well as massive selling artists from the rock and soul field: The Allman Brothers, Dr John, Aretha Franklin, Albert King, Otis, Rufus Thomas, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge and Booker T & The MGs.

Mose settled in nicely. Atlantic owners Nesuhi and Ahmet Ertegun allowed him to develop in his own sweet way (despite the fact that they said that his records never made any money) and this freedom initiated Mose’s most prolific period and produced some of his best loved LPs. The reason was that although he’d been primarily known as a jazz pianist who occasionally sang, he now proved that he was capable of making albums full of creative, thoughtful and enduring material. He leaned less on his cotton patch roots and pastoral suites, upping the level with his use of sarcastic put-downs, dry humour and thought-provoking, philosophical vignettes of American life that were all brought together with his deadpan delivery. His popularity grew from his ability to take jazz, blues, love songs and rootsy music and blend them to his own design, taking aspects of working class life and using everyday language with a rural simplicity not usually associated with jazz music. He may have appeared to have a down-home persona but he wasn’t such a simple guy. This was a man with an intellectual mind who appreciated Bartok, Schoenberg and Charles Ives, read poets like Kenneth Patchen and the French surrealist Celine and got song ideas from the writings of Paul Bowles, Stephen Vincent Benet and Shakespeare. Those of you who know Macbeth will understand when you listen to Let It Come Down.

Mose in Your Ear The fourteen years he spent at Atlantic saw the release of some of the most vigorous and versatile material of his career. The superb albums featuring the Mose Allison Trio, I Don’t Worry About A Thing, The Word From Mose, Wild Man On The Loose and I’ve Been Doin’ Some Thinking introduce some of his most revealing and rewarding songs to date. He experimented with arrangements, so Swingin’ Machine, Hello There Universe and Your Mind Is On Vacation found him in the company of brass sections that included Al Cohn, Pepper Adams and David Sanborn and his 1971 album Western Man, with Billy Cobham and Chuck Rainey, is known for his brief and successful affair with the electric piano. My favourite Atlantics are his two live albums Mose Alive and Mose In Your Ear. The former is a recording of his 1965 performance at The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, California where he rattles through a set of his own jazz-based killers and a bunch of blistering blues that includes salty versions of Fool’s Paradise, Seventh Son* and Since I Fell For You which delighted the exuberant audience members, especially the soul sister whose enthusiastic eruptions add to the energy of Baby Please Don’t Go.

*Seventh Son taken from The Best Of Mose Allison (Sequel Records RSACD 814)

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He had become an important writer and songs like Foolkiller, One Of These Days, I’m Not Talking, Your Molecular Structure, I Don’t Worry About A Thing (Because Nothing’s Going To Be Alright), Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy (When They Don’t Know The Meaning Of The Word), Your Mind Is On Vacation (And Your Mouth is Working Overtime), Tell Me Something (I Don’t Know) were attracting the ears and imaginations of musicians and singers the world over with his tunes entering the recorded repertoires of artists as diverse as Al Kooper, Leon Russell, Sharecroppers Of Soul, Herman Brood, The Clash, Johnny Rivers, Robert Palmer, Paul Butterfield, Stan Ridgway, Diana Krall and Tracy Nelson. Your Mind Is On Vacation (And Your Mouth is Working Overtime) has been covered by country fiddler Vassar Clements, Elvis Costello and Van Morrison, while Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy hit the nerve for Maria Muldaur, John Hammond and Bonnie Raitt – whose version must be regarded as second only to Mose’s. The most revered track though, has to be Parchman Farm – that blistering rundown of life in one of the USA’s most ferocious penitentiaries. (Not, incidentally, any relation to Bukka White’s classic blues of the same title.) John Mayall, Blue Cheer, Michael Chapman, Johnny Winter, Cactus, Blues Project, The Kingston Trio, Bobby Gentry and Georgie Fame have all had a crack at this gem. Mose is pleased that folk singers, rockers and punks have dug into his songs. After all, every time an artist covers a tune, it brings the attention right back to the man himself and when asked if he thinks they treat his material with respect, he came back with a typical comment: “I like anything that anybody does with my material. I do what I want with other people’s material so I don’t quibble when they interpret mine.”

Mose Allison Trio live on PBS television show Soundstage, Chicago, USA (aired 22nd December 1975) featuring Jack Hannah (bass) and Jerry Granelli (drums)

Most notable, is the profound effect Mose Allison had on the British pop scene in the sixties, when John Mayall was adding Mose’s blues tracks to his stage act and albums, Van Morrison was hanging on his every word and Georgie Fame cannot deny that he based his entire vocal style on him. Mayall revealed “Everybody I know in England was raised on Mose” and Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones said “If you were living in Britain and playing blues in the ‘60s, you were influenced by Mose”. But it took The Who to come up with Mose Allison’s biggest selling hit when they recorded their swaggering Young Man Blues (a retitling of Blues from Back Country Suite) on their platinum-selling album Live At Leeds. On the original rendition, the song comes across as a world-weary, resigned view of frustrated youth while, in complete contrast, Pete Townsend’s take is filled with strident anger – the vicious rock motif powered along by his slashing guitar style and Moon’s thundering drumming. It quickly became the anthem of a generation and was the most played track on an album that has had praise lavished on it ever since it came out in May 1970. Regarded as one of the ten best live albums ever made, it’s included in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time and the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and has been awarded gold, platinum and multi-platinum discs. In a Blues Access interview, Mose recalled the day his first royalty cheque from Live At Leeds arrived, “I got this check in the mail from Jazz Editions for $7000. I thought ‘Man, what the hell is this?’ I’d been getting $20 and $30 from my albums and I couldn’t figure out what happened. I didn’t know anything about The Who! When The Who did that thing it was the first time ever I made any money off a record.”

Middle Class White BoyAfter leaving Atlantic in 1976, the record industry was in the doldrums and it was 1982 before Mose secured a two album deal with Elektra Musician, starting with Middle Class White Boy which caused a stir with the jazz crowd because he used an electric piano. Jazz critics believed the piano’s ‘plucked’ sound muted Mose’s virtuosity but the rest of us liked the vibrant sounds it created on the outstanding new compositions, Middle Class White Boy and Kiddin’ On The Square and especially the buoyant How Does It Feel? (To Be Good Looking) with its wry, witty lyrics: “How does it feel to be good looking, to go around spreading that old sex appeal, never any problem getting a booking, how does it feel?” Jack Bruce, Billy Cobham, sax player Lou Donaldson and Eric Gale played on the third live album of his career, Lessons In Living which was basically a hugely successful Greatest Hits Live collection that received a Grammy nomination.

Mose was 60 years old when, in 1987, he made the first of his four albums for Blue Note. At this point, he was considering the ageing process, the end of the world and meditation. New songs were written and old favourites and standards were restructured to be loaded onto Ever Since The World Ended, a well received album that included new classics like Gettin’ There, Top Forty (a future minor hit for Robert Palmer) and the darkly humorous Puttin’ Up With Me – “For so many years we’ve shared this bed, we grew up together after we were wed, we moved across the country from Maine to Tennessee, but I still can’t forgive you for puttin’ up with me”. My Backyard followed in 1989. This one isn’t simply a trio session but uses a well rehearsed band of players who obviously delight Mose – especially drummer John Vidacovich with his curious Zydeco-style beat. The material shows that Mose was still hard to beat when it came to writing stinging comment of the kind found on the satirical Ever Since I Stole The Blues, The Gettin’ Paid Waltz and My Backyard and he was still eager to use other writers’ stuff like Percy Mayfield’s Stranger In My Hometown and John D Loudermilk’s witty You Call It Joggin’ (But I Call It Runnin’ Around). Mose saw out the nineties and his contract with Blue Note with two treasure-filled albums, The Earth Wants You and Gimcracks And Gewgaws.

He now decided that live performances were more fun than making records and during the next decade did a good job of fending off overtures from various labels until Anti Records persuaded him to do just one more. In 2010, after twelve years without a CD release, Mose Allison fans were delighted to learn about his new album The Way Of The World which received effusive praise from critics and fans alike. True to form, it’s a great collection of typical Mose down-home advice and opinion featuring new songs like My Brain, a rundown of his state of intellectual health laid down to the tune of Willie Dixon’s My Babe, Let It Come Down, a song of regret that has deep lyrics and interesting percussion and Modest Proposal which is another of Mose’s off-kilter looks at modern life. Plus there’s a nice reprise of one of his ‘hits’ Ask Me Nice and a duet with his daughter, Amy Allison, on the delicate This New Situation. The album went straight to number one on the jazz charts and Anti reports sales figures verifying that it’s Mose’s best-selling, non-greatest hits album ever. American Songwriter magazine declared it “a master’s course in song writing” and Associated Press asked “Is it possible that an octogenarian has made the year’s best record? Yes!”

Recorded live at JazzHouse, Copenhagen, Denmark (3rd July 2010) as part of the 2010 Copenhagen Jazz Festival with Roy Babbington (bass) and Mark Taylor (drums)

What is the secret of his longevity? I’d say that musically, he has an organic technique of refining, re-jigging and reconstructing his music constantly but at the same time fooling you into thinking that his well loved established format isn’t changing. Not having to deal with radical change means that long-time fans have never lost faith in him and instead have grown with him. But what of a new generation of fans?

Today’s musicians continue to revere Mose Allison. Foo Fighters put their version of Young Man’s Blues on their 2011 album Medium Rare and, in a strange turn of events, instead of just having his material covered, he’s now getting songs written about him too. To celebrate Mose, Frank Black’s Pixies put Allison on their Bossanova album and singer-songwriter Greg Brown wrote Mose Allison Played Here: “The joint is a dump/ The owner is broke/ At least that’s what he said/ The PA’s a joke/ And nobody’s coming/ because, hey man, you see, advertising’s expensive/ Hey, what guarantee?/ But as I set up/ I am proud to be here/ Because once last November/ Mose Allison played here”.

The Way Of The World Greg’s song spells out the hardships of touring but Mose still isn’t put off. His relentless itinerary this year has taken in New Orleans, Lake Tahoe, Toronto, Seattle, Santa Fe and Albuquerque and from 3rd August 2011 he’ll be in London on his regular week long residency at one of his favourite venues, Soho’s Pizza Express – a gig he’s done for the past twenty years or so. Then he’s back to America for more dates in Washington DC, San Francisco and Head Island South Carolina. The list goes on – proving that demand for Mose is as strong as ever. He’s achieved a rare thing in that he is as relevant today as when he first started.

Musically, he’s always had a lot to say and, judging by his calendar, there are plenty of fans, old and new, who can’t wait to listen. To quote Paste Magazine, “Allison remains as sharp as broken glass!”

Catch Mose Allison at London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club Soho from 3rd – 11th August 2011.

Words: Ken Smith
Photos: courtesy of