Review : Mose Allison - The Way Of The World
LeisureblogsAt 82, Allison is a jazz master who hasn’t recorded a studio album in 12 years, which makes “The Way of the World” (Anti) an event. Though justly celebrated by jazz heads for his evocative piano style, a mix of bluesy swing and Thelonious Monk-like impishness, he is also revered by rock artists for his sneaky melodies and wittily subversive Beat-poet lyrics. The Who, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello and the Clash, among countless others, have covered his songs.
Joe Henry, the noted singer-songwriter whose production work has led to sterling late-career albums recently by Solomon Burke and Allen Toussaint, continues his hot streak with Allison. Recording over five days with his hand-picked band of California-based conspirators (including ace drummer Jay Bellerose and guitarist Greg Leisz), Henry puts the jazz great in a limber, small-group setting well-suited to Allison’s no-frills style and laconic tone.
The Mississippi-born pianist’s weather-beaten drawl hasn’t changed all that much; its off-hand cadences remain perfectly suited for his songs of wry discontent, whether ruminating on women (“Everybody Thinks You’re An Angel”), religion (“Modest Proposal”) or his own restless imagination (“My Brain”). And, then just because he felt like flexing his be-bop chops, Allison unleashes a fierce torrent of notes on the instrumental “Crush,” which should discourage anyone from writing a reflective, lion-in-winter elegy about this sly devil....full text
AllmusicMose Allison basically retired from studio recording after 1998’s dynamite Gimcracks and Gewgaws. Retired, that is, until producer Joe Henry met him in 2008 and dogged him until he graciously caved in. He coaxed Allison into his basement studio and cut the seven originals and five covers that became The Way of the World with a host of players from his own stable in five days. At 82, Allison is as smart, cagey, and inventive as ever. All but one of these cuts feature his weathered but still wiry dry baritone voice that exudes a trademark jazz singer cum beat poet’s phrasing. For anyone who’s seen him in the last decade -- or heard his jaw-dropping Live in London recordings -- his keyboard skills are sharp as an Argentine stiletto: give a listen to the lone instrumental, “Crush.” Allison's elastic harmonic sense is as beautifully unruly as Monk's, yet his improvisational ideas are carried by a nimble-fingered force worthy of Bud Powell. The opener, “My Brain,” is a smoking rewrite of Willie Dixon's “My Babe.” Allison reflects on the ever-changing intellectual capabilities of his gray matter while punching up the piano's middle register. The blues have been at the heart of Allison’s piano attack (Back Country Suite, 1957), though he’s always wedded them to swing, rag, and bop. Henry underscores that with subtle touches: the strummed Gypsy swing mandola on the ironic betrayal anthem “I Know You Didn’t Mean It” that engages with a knotty bluesed-out piano break and a warm tenor solo -- à la Ben Webster -- and “Everybody Thinks You’re an Angel,” a waltz with a Weissenborn guitar, follow a similar principle to delightfully different ends. On “Modest Proposal” Allison humorously asserts the compassionate idea that perhaps God is so weary he deserves a vacation. It’s a strutting piano-and-vocal number, where Allison's saloon-singer irony might scandalize a preacher but makes the congregation laugh. The elegant parlor ballad “Once in a While” and the shuffling, not brokenhearted blues of “I’m Alright” also stand out. The latter’s addition of electric guitar, mandola, and saxophone might seem like frills for an Allison session, but sound perfectly balanced and natural. On the final track, Buddy Johnson's WWII-era pop tune “This New Situation,” Allison duets with daughter Amy; the two swing beautifully together. The Way of the World is not a comeback album; Henry had a nagging suspicion that Allison might have something new to say and Allison obliged. In the process they created a gem of an album that proves the pianist and songwriter still has many tricks up his elegantly tailored, eternally hip sleeve....full text
BostonMose Allison has been taking his listeners on jazz hayrides since the ’50s, and his style (thankfully) hasn’t changed: blues-inflected bop with hipster lyrics delivered in a deadpan, half-talking style. Even after all these years, Mose Allison says what he has to say and gets out. Each of the dozen songs that make up the singer and pianist’s new album, “The Way of World,’’ runs between 2 and 3 1/2 minutes. (Who does he think he is, the White Stripes?)
Aided by producer extraordinaire Joe Henry, “The Way of the World’’ is billed as Allison’s comeback album (a la Johnny Cash), largely because of his age — he’s 82 — and because it has been eight years since his last album, which also happened to be billed as a comeback.
This is also his first studio album in 13 years. But, man, he hasn’t lost it, and he wants us to know it. “My Brain’’ (“My brain is always ticking / as long as I’m alive and kicking’’) is as dry and cool as “Your Mind Is on Vacation’’ from way back when. His piano playing is just as bluesy and funky; on “Some Right, Some Wrong,’’ it barrels along like a freight train. His wry wit and intentionally twisted logic spare no target: He goes after organized religion (“Modest Proposal’’), conventional thinking (“Everybody Thinks You’re An Angel’’), human behavior (“I Know You Didn’t Mean It’’), other people (“I’m Alright’’), and even himself (“Ask Me Nice’’). Mose, if we ask you nice, can we have another album before 2020? STEVE GREENLEE...full text
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