Mose Allison – Lessons In Living (1983)

FrontCover1Mose John Allison Jr. (November 11, 1927 – November 15, 2016) was an American jazz and blues pianist, singer, and songwriter. He became notable for playing a unique mix of blues and modern jazz, both singing and playing piano. After moving to New York in 1956, he worked primarily in jazz settings, playing with jazz musicians like Stan Getz, Al Cohn, and Zoot Sims, along with producing numerous recordings.

He is described as having been “one of the finest songwriters in 20th-century blues.” His songs were strongly dependent on evoking moods, with his individualistic, “quirky”, and subtle ironic humor. His writing influence on R&B had well-known fans recording his songs, among them Pete Townshend, who recorded his “Young Man Blues” for the Who’s Live At Leeds album in 1970. John Mayall was one of dozens who recorded his classic, “Parchman Farm”, and Georgie Fame used many of Allison’s songs. Others who recorded his songs included Leon Russell (“I’m Smashed”) and Bonnie Raitt (“Everybody’s Crying’ Mercy”).

The 1980s saw an increase in his popularity with new fans drawn to his unique blend of modern jazz. In the 1990s he began recording more consistently. Van Morrison, Georgie Fame and Ben Sidran collaborated with him on a tribute album, Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison. The Pixies wrote the song “Allison” as a tribute.

Allison’s music had an important influence on other artists, such as Jimi Hendrix, J. J. Cale, the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, and Pete Townshend. He was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006. (by wikipedia)

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Though ever-busy as a live performer, Mose Allison rarely ventured into the recording studio during the late ’70s and early ’80s, making this fine concert set all the more valuable. LESSONS IN LIVING was cut at the Montreux Jazz Festival with a stellar backing band including Jack Bruce (bass), Billy Cobham (drums), Eric Gale (guitar) and Lou Donaldson (saxophone), all of whom get a chance to shine on these nine tracks. Allison’s voice and piano playing are in peak form as well, and the man’s understated cool comes through perfectly on a mix of classics (“Your Mind Is On Vacation”), recent songs (“Middle Class White Boy”) and re-imagined standards (“You Are My Sunshine”). LESSONS IN LIVING now celebrates its 35th anniversary, and it still qualifies as a master class in blues-oriented jazz. (Press release)

Recorded in a live setting in 1982 – the same year as his Middle Class White Boy album – Lessons in Living is a mixed bag. The material is terrific, and Mose Allison is in typically fine form. The issue lies more with the “all-star” band assembled for the date: bassist Jack Bruce, drummer Billy Cobham, and soloists Eric Gale (guitarist) and Lou Donaldson ( alto saxophonist). For starters, Allison didn’t need a large band –or any band, really – to shine. Though he had been absent from the recording scene for six years until that point, he had continued to perform live and his chops as both a pianist and a singer are stellar.

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These players, fine as they are, don’t seem to understand the subtler kind of magic that Allison puts across in a club setting, and don’t know how to lay back enough – this is particularly the case with Cobham, who is overly busy throughout the date, double-timing already fast tunes like “Wild Man in the Street.” Bruce, playing electric bass, has a wonderful facility to move and shift gears with the pianist, but still feels a shade behind Cobham’s fast and furious beat – the overdriven “Your Mind Is on Vacation” is a case in point. That said, Allison feels like he is having the time of his life. Donaldson’s solo on “You Are My Sunshine” is stirring and raw, something that feels jarring at first with the wonderfully relaxed groove of Allison’s arrangement, but fits like a glove after a chorus. The stomping pace of Willie Dixon’s “Seventh Son” is a highlight on the set with Cobham lightening his touch a bit and Allison’s vocal is swaggering and tough. The laid-back blues of “Everybody Is Crying Mercy” is another gem, with the band holding Allison’s blues loose and easy. Lessons in Living is basically for Allison devotees, but it has fantastic moments. Ironically, Allison didn’t return to recording again for another three years in 1986 after this set was issued. (unknown author)

What a line-up !

Recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, July 1982


Mose Allison (piano, vocals)
Jack Bruce (bass)
Billy Cobham (drums)
Lou Donaldson (saxophone)
Eric Gale (guitar)

01. Lost Mind (Mayfield) 2.49
02. Wild Man On The Loose (Allison) 2.23
03. Your Mind Is On Vacation (Allison) 3.16
04. You Are My Sunshine (Mitchell/Davis) 4.54
05. Seventh Son (Dixon) 4.48
06. Everybody Is Cryin’ Mercy (Allison) 3.18
07. Middle Class White Boy (Allison) 3.48
08. I Don’t Worry About A Thing (Allison) 5.52
09. Night Club (Allison) 6.18



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