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Mose Allison: American Legend: Live in California

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Three years ago, after more than six decades on the road, pianist and vocalist Mose Allison officially stopped touring. This 53-minute session, captured at Marin County’s 19 Broadway, is being touted as the NEA Jazz Master’s final live recording. True enough. But it’s also almost a decade old, dating to 2006, when Allison was a spry 78. With Allison, however, age has never been a factor. His playing, informed by such heroes as Nat Cole and Art Tatum, has always been inspired. The voice, though small from the outset and (akin to Willie Nelson) increasingly grizzled, remains engrossing thanks to its unique blend of Southern drawl and Delta-blues grit.

It would be unfair to suggest that, as a songwriter, Allison is nonpareil. Still, he ranks high among postwar masters of sly, sharp, often comedic lyrics, a tiny coterie that includes Dave Frishberg, Bob Dorough, Fran Landesman, Tommy Wolf and few others. Fortunately this 19-track set, with Allison flanked by drummer (and producer) Pete Magadini and bassist Bill Douglass, focuses primarily on his own compositions. From the brilliant sardonicism of “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy” and “Your Mind Is on Vacation” to the keen drollness of “Certified Senior Citizen” and cozy confines of “City Home” and “My Backyard,” Allison emerges as a steadfast jazz everyman, saluting the average American Joe while gleefully deflating the narrow-minded and the vainglorious. In that regard, he is truly without equal.

Originally Published