Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Mose Allison at the Jazz Standard, NYC 3/13/09

Mose Allison may have celebrated his eightieth birthday on the stage here last November, but he hasn’t changed a bit over the last (how many?) decades, giving new meaning to the phrase “absolutely undiminished.” Right down to his vise-grip handshake. There ought to be a PBS American Masters documentary about this guy (the BBC released Mose Allison: Ever Since I Stole the Blues in 2006 – the Europeans are always a step ahead of us). The great songwriter/chanteuse Amy Allison’s dad shares his daughter’s droll wit and rich appreciation for Americana, in his case blues and jazz. It’s impossible to imagine Tom Waits – or for that matter, Dr. John – without him. Friday night’s show with his trio was typical, a clinic in tasteful, jazz-infused saloon blues piano songs infused with dry wit and occasional gallows humor.


This was a song set: when he soloed, he kept it brief and terse, seldom going for more than a verse at a time. There’s still nobody who plays like him – it’s hard to get through a set of blues without falling back on a familiar phrase or two, but Allison pulled this one off without them. Instead, it was lots of sharply percussive chords, brushing through the passing tones without making it obvious, and no wasted notes. Like his vocals, his phrasing on the keys is still the definition of cool. The band jammed their way into a particularly timely Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: “Am I just plain greedy?/Do I worry about the ozone layer?/Do I worry about my new hairspray?” he asked with the usual half-a-wink in his voice. His cynical, apocalyptic side was further represented by the casual, laid-back Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, and a bit later, Ever Since the World Ended: “Remember how we went around lying about how we felt?” he mused. His trademark sly, sophisticated side was most entertainingly on display in the slow swing blues My Backyard – “where a maven of sorts forsakes his cohorts” – as well as the old Nat King Cole Trio brush-off song No Particular Time (when “you better bring along your glasses because I’m hard to find”). And there was plenty of dark understatement in a playful version of If You Only Knew, and the psychos-on-the-street saga Monsters of the Id with its eerie 1-5# hook.


As usual, the sound in the room was crystal-clear and the audience was still, following his every move: this place draws a crowd of real music fans, not just tourists.  

March 15, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment