The news of singer/pianist Mose Allison’s passing on November 15 made me quite sad as I had the feeling to have lost a friend I never knew.
From 18 to 26 I was one of those truly dislikeable Frank Zappa fans who run around all day pestering people who he thinks are just too ignorant and dumb to understand what a genius Zappa is.
Nowadays Zappa leaves me cold (except his first couple of LPs with the Mothers Of Invention and his orchestral music).
But I have to thank Zappa for several things:
a) teaching me there is more to music than 4/4.
b) making me love Doo Wop
c) making me love Edgar Varèse
d) making me listen to Mose Allison.
At some time in the late 1980s there was an article in the german magazine “Tempo” (which was published from 1986 to 1996) titled “50 rock stars talk about their favourite artists” or something to that effect. Frank Zappa was quoted with “I always listen to Mose Allison on my Walkman.” So the next day, I went to town and bought this record:
And I absolutely fell in love with the man, his music and his lyrics right away. Mose was witty, wise and cool and straightfaced sarcastic and laconic and sometimes very funny and on top of that a very fine pianist.
On a Prestige 2LP compilation of Mose Allison’s early works, Pete Townsend of The Who is quoted:
“When I heard that [Allison’s LP “Back Country Suite”] I swore he was as black as Cow Cow Davenport (Was Cow Cow Davenport black?)”
Two things about that statement. First: Cow Cow Davenport was black. Second: I think Mose Allison’s secret was that he sounded very white if one can say so, but he sounded cool and hip nonetheless. His way of playing and singing the blues is sophisticated and down home at the same time – a hard task.
Strangely enough all of my jazz friends never shared my enthusiasm for Mose Allison, “Yeah, nice, but not my style”, was all I could ever get out of them. So after a while I stopped with my new hobby: running around all day pestering people who I think are just too ignorant and dumb to understand what a genius Mose Allison is!
So after that it was just a thing between me and Mose, the cool poet. And Mose the prophet: Here is what he had to say – in 1968 – about the state of things in 2016: “Jus Like Livin'” – the first piece of Mose’s that I’ve ever heard – was recorded in Los Angeles on July 9, 1968 with Red Mitchell on bass and Bill Goodwin on drums.