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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Mose Allison – Back Country Suite (1957)

LPFrontCover1.jpgNot unlike his namesake, Luther Allison, pianist Mose Allison suffered from a “categorization problem,” given his equally brilliant career. Although his boogie-woogie and bebop-laden piano style was innovative and fresh-sounding when it came to blues and jazz, it was as a songwriter that Allison really excelled. Allison’s songs have been recorded by the Who (“Young Man Blues”), Leon Russell (“I’m Smashed”), and Bonnie Raitt (“Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy”). Other admirers have included Tom Waits, John Mayall, Georgie Fame, the Rolling Stones, and Van Morrison. But because he always played both blues and jazz, and not one to the exclusion of the other, his career suffered. As he himself admitted, he had a “category” problem that lingered throughout his career. “There’s a lot of places I don’t work because they’re confused about what I do,” he explained in a 1990 interview in Goldmine magazine. Despite the lingering confusion, Allison was one of the finest songwriters in blues of the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Born in Tippo, Mississippi, on November 11, 1927, Allison’s first exposure to blues on record was through Louis Jordan recordings, including “Outskirts of Town” and “Pinetop Blues.” Allison credited Jordan as being a major influence on him, and also credited Nat “King” Cole, Louis Armstrong, and Fats Waller. He started out on trumpet but later switched to piano. In his youth, he had easy access, via the radio, to the music of Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons, and Meade “Lux” Lewis. Allison also credited the songwriter Percy Mayfield, “the Poet Laureate of the Blues,” as being a major inspiration on his songwriting.

MoseAllison01.jpgAfter a stint in college and the Army, Allison’s first professional gig was in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1950. He returned to college to finish up at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where he studied English and philosophy, a far cry from his initial path as a chemical engineering major.

Allison began his recording career with the Prestige label in 1956, shortly after he moved to New York City. He recorded an album with Al Cohn and Bobby Brookmeyer, and then in 1957 got his own record contract. A big break was the opportunity to play with Cohn and Zoot Sims shortly after his arrival in New York, but he later became more well known after playing with saxophonist Stan Getz. After leaving Prestige Records, where he recorded now classic albums like Back Country Suite (1957), Young Man Mose (1958), and Seventh Son (1958-1959), he moved to Columbia for two years before meeting up with Nesuhi Ertegun of Atlantic Records. He recalled that he signed his contract with Atlantic after about ten minutes in Nesuhi’s office. Allison spent a big part of his recording career at Atlantic Records, where he became most friendly with Ertegun. After the company saw substantial growth and Allison was no longer working directly with him, he became discouraged and left. Allison also recorded for Columbia (before he began his long relationship with Atlantic), and the Epic and Prestige labels.

MoseAllison02.jpgMose Allison with Harry Johnson and Taylor LaFargue (Austin, Texas, 1952)

Allison’s discography is a lengthy one, and there are gems to be found on all of his albums, many of which can be found in vinyl shops. His output after 1957 averaged at least one album a year until 1976, when he finished up at Atlantic with the classic Your Mind Is on Vacation. There was a gap of six years before he recorded again, this time for Elektra’s Musician subsidiary in 1982, when he recorded Middle Class White Boy. After 1987, he recorded with Blue Note/Capitol. His debut for that label was Ever Since the World Ended. Allison recorded some of the most creative material of his career with the Blue Note subsidiary of Capitol Records, including My Backyard (1992) and The Earth Wants You (1994), both produced by Ben Sidran. Also in 1994, Rhino Records released a box set, Allison Wonderland. Allison’s first new studio album in some 12 years, the Joe Henry-produced The Way of the World, appeared from Anti early in 2010. It would be Allison’s final studio album; he died in November 2016 at the age of 89. (by Richard Skelly)


UK labels from 1957

And here´s his very first album:

Mose Allison’s very first recording finds the 29-year-old pianist taking just two vocals (on his “Young Man Blues” and “One Room Country Shack”), but those are actually the most memorable selections. The centerpiece of this trio outing with bassist Taylor LaFargue and drummer Frank Isola is Allison’s ten-part “Back Country Suite,” a series of short concise folk melodies that puts the focus on his somewhat unique piano style which, although boppish, also looked back at the country blues tradition. Very interesting music. (by Scott Yanow)


UK frontcover from 1957

Mose Allison (piano, vocals)
Taylor La Fargue (bass)
Frank Isola (drums)



Back Country Suite For Piano Bass And Drums:
01. New Ground (Allison) 2.06
02. Train (Allison) 1.51
03. Warm Night (Allison) 1.47
04. (Young Man) Blues (Allison) 1.29
05. Saturday (Allison) 1.25
06. Scamper (Allison) 2.15
07. January (Allison) 1.39
08. Promised Land (Allison) 2.03
09. Spring Song (Allison) 1.23
10. Highway 49 (Allison) 1.39

11. Blueberry Hill (Lewis/Stock/Rose) 3.01
12. You Won’t Let Me Go (Johnson) 3.47
13. I Thought About You (van Heusen/Mercer) 3.54
14. One Room Country Shack (Walton) 3.05
15. In Salah (Allison) 3.45




Mose Allison – Mose Allison Sings (1963)

frontcover1At first glance, Mose Allison Sings might seem to be just another reissued jazz recording from the 1950s. Like most CDs of this ilk, it has been digitally remastered and has additional “bonus” tracks now possible without the space limitations of vinyl records.

A cynic might use the term “old wine in new bottles” to characterize many of these reissues. There are exceptions, of course, and this album is one. The most compelling reason to reexamine an old album stems from the recognition that there may be much we either have forgotten or did not properly appreciate the first time. Mose Allison Sings reminds us how true that can be.

The legendary Rudy Van Gelder engineered the session and mastered the original LP. However, since the advent of CDs, others have made the masters—until he was given the opportunity. “I remember the sessions well,” Van Gelder recounts. “I remember how the musicians wanted it to sound, and I remember their reactions to the playbacks.” In this light, it’s difficult to argue with his assertion that he is now their authentic “messenger.” The warm, full sound quality here is everything one would expect from Van Gelder.

Eminent jazz scholar Ira Gitler adds a few paragraphs to his original liner notes, including the fact that he briefly served as Allison’s manager. He points out that Allison started out moseallison2playing trumpet as well as piano, but stopped when his horn was stolen in Philadelphia. One of the bonus tracks, “Trouble in Mind,” displays Allison’s trumpet playing, and listeners hearing his soulfully understated horn style for the first time are likely to ask, along with Gitler, why he never replaced it.

While the dry wit of Allison’s singing eventually eclipsed his piano skills, he was a bona fide jazz musician who played with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan and Zoot Sims before achieving fame in his own right. Allison effectively absorbed influences from Sonny Williamson to Nat Cole, says Gitler, describing his piano solos as “unspectacular but effective… models of brevity and wit.”

Allison’s range, and his seemingly effortless ability to balance it, is evident here. Along with his own composition “Parchman Farm,” the other tune for which he is best known is Willie Dixon’s “The Seventh Son.” Both are good examples of his down-home, Delta blues style. Yet he sounds equally comfortable covering the jazz of Duke Ellington, the rhythm and blues of Ray Charles, and the country and western of Jimmy Rogers.

In the confessional style appropriate to the blues, Gitler admits he hasn’t listened to much of Allison’s recent work but promises to mend his ways “as soon as the opportunity presents itself.” He strongly implies we would do well to follow suit. (Victor Verney)


Mose Allison (piano, vocals, trumpet)
Ronnie Free (drums)
Taylor LaFargue (bass)
Addison Farmer (bass on 10. + 12.) (10, 12)
Frank Isola (drums on 10. + 12.)
Nick Stabulas (drums on 04., 06., 07., 09. + 11.) (4, 6, 7, 9, 11)


01. The Seventh Son (Dixon) 2.39
02. Eyesight To The Blind (Williamson) 1.43
03. Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me (Ellington) 3.12
04. Lost Mind (Mayfield) 3.32
05. I Got A Right To Cry (Liggins) 2.50
06. Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand (Charles) 3.16
07. Parchman Farm (Allison) 3.19
08. If You Live (Allison) 2.31
09. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (Ellington) 2.48
10. One Room Country Shack (Walton) 3.01
11. I Hadn’t Anyone Till You (Noble) 2.33
12. Young Man (Allison) 1.26
13. That’s All Right (Rogers) 2.25



Mose Allison – Jazzfest Berlin (1992)

frontcover1 The musician Mose Allison, who has died aged 89, could count the Who, the Clash, Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison and Georgie Fame among the fans of his acerbic songs. His scalpel-sharp lyrics were underpinned by assiduous researches of a line that went all the way back to the earliest roots of the blues.

Allison always managed to sound cool and in a hurry at the same time. Needing nothing more than a piano, a microphone and a rhythm section to fire off his own biting updates on country-blues, he would hustle through his repertoire of laconic social commentary, and the classic songs of Tampa Red, Willie Dixon and many others, as if trying to squeeze a Delta discography into a single set.

Rarely pausing for banter or biographical musings about himself or his heroes, the spare, faintly donnish Allison would clatter into the opening of a song when the last syllable of its namecheck was barely out of his mouth. The restless urban urgency of his methods brought a modernity (via bebop) to the earthy materials of the Delta, and a sophisticated irony to the direct and often accusatory themes of the blues.

The pianist, singer and occasional trumpeter never adapted his light, southern-inflected conversational voice to the spine-tingling hollers or the muscular laments of traditional blues. He used it instead as an almost rap-like, rhythmic monotone – the dynamics sometimes varied by an explosive, sustained sound, but more usually echoing a drummer’s busy, preoccupied mutter.

In his early years, he was a piano accompanist and not a singer, working for various top saxophonists, and his keyboard playing retained a delightful eccentricity throughout his career, an uncategorisable style of whirling runs and marching left-hand countermelodies that was his alone.


And though the lyrics of Allison’s best songs became well known, his performances could always produce freshly disconcerting versions of the devastating one-liners that included “your mind’s on vacation but your mouth’s working overtime”, “I’m nobody today but I was somebody last night” and “ever since the world ended, I don’t go out so much”. “Mose, you got a good thing goin’,” Sonny Boy Williamson said to him. Dixon called him “a beautiful musician”.

Allison was born on his grandfather’s farm, near the village of Tippo, just inside the eastern rim of the Mississippi Delta. His father took over the business, and his mother taught at the local school – a connection that gave the boy a lifelong love of literature that significantly influenced his resources as a songwriter. Allison’s father was a good stride-style pianist and, at the age of five, the boy was sent for formal piano lessons. But it was the blues, boogie-woogie music and jazz he heard on the jukeboxes that really turned his head.

In a predominantly black corner of the US’s cotton-farming country in the 1930s, Allison recollected that 60% of the jukebox fare would be country blues, and the remainder the big-band bravura of Count Basie and Tommy Dorsey – and he loved both. A gifted natural improviser, he was also attracted to the trumpet by the music of Louis Armstrong, studying the instrument in high school and performing with it in local marching bands and dance bands.

But family caution rather than the lure of jazz and blues determined Allison’s next step and he went to the University of Mississippi to study chemical engineering. Army bands allowed him to return to the trumpet and piano during a year of military service, however, and in 1947 he returned to college (this time as an economics major) but also became the leader of a jazz trio and a composer/arranger for the college band. He pulled out of full-time education a second time, to take a six-nights-a-week job playing piano and singing in a cocktail lounge near Lake Charles, Indiana, then moved to Louisiana State University to study English and philosophy, graduating in 1952.

But Allison’s career was beginning to roll by now. He began working all over the south-east and as far north as Denver, then went to New York to sample the frenetic modern jazz and bebop scene in 1956. He played piano with the saxists Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and Gerry Mulligan, but the invigorating New York scene encouraged him to draw together all the disparate influences in his musical sensibilities: the relaxed swing piano of Nat King Cole and Erroll Garner, the various angles on bebop adopted by Thelonious Monk, John Lewis and Al Haig, and, of course, the distant childhood sounds of the blues singers.


Like Miles Davis in the same period, Allison was finding that bop could become a mechanical, formulaic exercise, and he was looking for something else. In 1957, Allison made Back Country Suite for the Prestige label, and, the following year, an Allison trio made its debut at the Café Bohemia in New York – with a young drummer, Paul Motian, who was later to become a star.

Allison’s interweaving of swing’s elegance and his own eccentrically bumpy, bop-influenced rhythmic sense marked the arrival of a significant new force. He brought together a mix of jazz and country sounds new to 50s east coast hipsters, and on a single sung track (simply called Blues) he seemed to be opening up possibilities for a white voice exploring black material creatively rather than as pastiche that anticipated the white R&B boom of the decade still to come.

Albums such as Local Color (1957) and Autumn Song (1959) followed, with the first briefly featuring Allison’s muted trumpet and a haunting examination of Duke Ellington’s Don’t Ever Say Goodbye, and the second including more vocals, and some straight bop piano on one of the idiom’s classics, Groovin’ High. But he still saw himself as a pianist at least as much as a singer in this period, continuing to work with Getz intermittently – including a month-long engagement at the Montmartre club, Copenhagen, where the two performed as a duo.

Allison’s best songs surfaced ever more prolifically in the period between 1960 and 1964, with I Don’t Worry About a Thing, Your Mind Is on Vacation and Don’t Forget to Smile appearing on an impeccable series of albums for Atlantic. He began to tour internationally through the 60s and 70s, and his bluesy vocals and the enthusiasm of such influential fans as Morrison helped him avoid the effects of the rock-driven downturn in jazz’s fortunes in that period.

Allison appeared in Jeff Stein’s 1979 rock documentary The Kids Are Alright, about the Who, who covered his Young Man Blues. Regularly working with the bassist Mel Graves and drummer George Marsh, Allison toured steadily, and moved to the Elektra and then Blue Note labels in the 80s. The latter company sought to rebrand him through collaborations with various guests – from the New Orleans band on My Backyard (1989) to contemporary jazz stars including the trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonist Joe Lovano and guitarist John Scofield on The Earth Wants You in 1994.

But Allison never sounded better than when left to himself and he confirmed that the acuity of his observational powers was undimmed in beginning to turn his muse toward the insights and ironies of senior citizenship. The influence of long-gone southlands guitarists on his piano technique would always be audible under classic songs such as What’s Your Movie?, he would typically impart a defiant rather than romantic air to a standard ballad such as You Are My Sunshine, and the original How Much Truth (Can a Man Stand?), delivered without an iota of reproof, could always tingle the spine.

At the PizzaExpress jazz club in London, which he took to visiting twice a year in the 90s and early 2000s, Allison would sometimes seem to be in a fascinating private reverie, in which stomping bluesy figures would wrestle with swirling, wind-in-trees melodies, or turn into a jerky clatter like a silent-movie soundtrack. Ain’t Got Nothing But the Blues, Trouble in Mind and Knock on Wood might hurtle by in a blur.

The pungency and vigour of Allison’s work with local sidemen at the PizzaExpress was admirably caught on a fine collection by Blue Note Records in 2000 – The Mose Chronicles: Live in London Volumes 1 & 2. But after 1998, suspicious of studios and record companies, he avoided them until the producer Joe Henry tempted him back for the LA label Anti in 2008.


The result, a mix of covers and originals entitled The Way of the World and featuring a duet with his daughter, Amy, revealed the octogenarian to be to be just as sardonic, incisive, and vocally and instrumentally quirky as ever. In 2013, Allison was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, and performed his song Was at the ceremony, with Amy accompanying him.

Back in the memorable days of Allison’s London visits, he would sometimes intone his 1982 album title “Just another middle-class white boy trying to have some fun,” as the piano notes flew by. That childhood pastime went on to work its inimitable magic for almost six decades.

Allison is survived by his wife, Audre Mae, and four children, Alissa, Amy, John and Janine. (by

And this is a beautiful and rare concert recording … and you´ll hear the magic of good old Mose Allison !

Recorded live at the Jazzfest, Musik-Instrumenten-Museum
Berlin, Germany; November 27, 1992
Very good satellite radio show


Mose Allison (piano, vocals)
Sigi Busch (bass)
Jerry Granelli (drums)


01. Indian Love Call (Friml)/Power House (Allison)/City Home (Allison) 15.48
02. When You’re Going To The City (Allison) 3.03
03. Tell Me Something (Allison) 2.36
04. Your Molecular Structure (Allison) 3.29
05. Announcement 0.09
06. Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me (Ellington/Russell) 2.57
07. I Feel So Good (Allison) 3.26
08. Announcement 0.09
09. Trouble In Mind (Jones) 2.56
10. Gettin’ There (Allison) 3.03
11. I Don’t Want Much (Allison) 2.33
12. Ever Since The World Ended (Allison) 3.54
13. Announcement 0.06
14. I Love The Life I Live (Dixon) 4.45



(11 November 1927 – November 2016)