The passing of Mose Allison just days after his 89th birthday is yet another sign on the highway to the fact that there aren’t many of the genuine innovators left. I’m perfectly aware that this is symptomatic of us all getting old. I don’t appreciate the smart arse aspect of that being pointed out but still, there is that cosmic certainty of inevitability.
Mose was, for a while, a shining example of living history. That he was spared to a good age was absolutely to the advantage of those of us who were able to see him play. Though I was aware of him, it was only in the past 15 years that I really came to appreciate that he wasn’t just some old jazz guy. It’s being reported that he was too blues for jazz and too jazz for blues. In essence he was more than either of those pigeonholes.
I’d discovered an act called Parlor James on a visit to San Francisco in 1996. One of the members was a lady by the name of Amy Allison. Her voice was like nothing i ever heard before and I was captivated to the point that I bought all the promo copies I could find in Amoeba Records. Some years later, I contracted chicken pox in New York and found out that Amy Allison was playing the Lakeside Lounge the day after the doc gave me the all clear to get out of Dodge. Dodge being NYC.
A few years later the very wonderful Laura Cantrell cut an album, “Not The Trembling Kind” and on it was “The Whiskey Makes You Sweeter” written by Amy. Having asked Laura for contact details, I plucked up the courage to cold call her and the rest is history, six weeks later she was here in Scotland ready to play shows with Amy Rigby and ultimately to record with David Scott.
However, I digress. It seemed to be only right that I investigate her dad’s work properly and it floored me. There had been versions of his songs but being the singular artist that he was, the way to hear these was performed by the man himself. I was lucky enough to see him perform too and the last time. At Glasgow Jazz Festival in the Old Fruitmarket he tore the place a new roof.
The one time I met him, I’m certain he had no idea what the hell I was babbling about. He smiled and nodded a lot. My favourite recent Mose story is the time that he appeared on “Later” and he declined to let Jools Holland plink along with him. To me that's the measure of a true giant.
Mose Allison was a quiet cerebral man with nothing to prove to anyone. He conducted himself as the archetypal Southern gentleman at all times and if you never heard him then jeebus, you surely have a treat in store.
Amy sent this link to a cool obituary that explains in some detail just how important her dad is in the firmament o everything. I'm not about to say "Was". My condolences to my dear friend and her family at this time.