Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hello There, Universe

Okay, first of all, the title is from the song of the same name by Mose Allison. It's not meant to be too pretentious.

Well, here we go - another blog that doesn't matter in the larger scheme of things. I resisted for a long time. The closest I've had to an outlet like this has been the long, probably boring, emails that I send my friend Rob. After a mostly sleepless night last night, I decided to start this blog and make it available to a few friends, as well as anyone who comes across it.

I'll keep in mind Duke Ellington's implied advice/warning from his introduction to Stanley Dance's The World of Duke Ellington: "I'm sure he has not revealed more than he ought!"

Music I like: Mose Allison. Back when I was a teenager, the woman who would later become my first mother-in-law gave me a double-album jazz anthology of the Atlantic label. Among other wonderful music, it contained "Your Mind is on Vacation," from Mose Allison's first Atlantic album. I like the song right away, but it was only about two years ago that I picked up a CD copy of The Best of Mose Allison at a used CD store. This was a collection of some the best stuff he recorded for Atlantic. I found myself coming back to this CD over and over - it had such great songs as "I Don't Worry About a Thing ('Cause Nothing's Going to Be All Right)" and "Stop the World." After about six months, I wanted more, started collecting other Mose albums, and eventually passed on the Best CD to Rob. I just picked up a vinyl copy of Lessons in Living, Mose's set from the 1982 Montreux Jazz Festival, and I'm really looking forward to hearing it. It doesn't have any songs I don't have on other recordings, but I'll bet this excellent band turns out good versions of them.

Mose is an excellent jazz pianist - equally influenced by the Mississippi blues he grew up with and by Bartok and probably Nat Cole - but he is mostly known for his songs. They are witty, sometimes sarcastic, but sometimes cut pretty deep. A couple of my favorites are "Ever Since the World Ended" and "How Much Truth." If you've never heard Allison, you should start with the Atlantic Best of or his classic album I Don't Worry About a Thing.

My better half and I heard Mose, along with Larry Coryell and a local rhythm section, at Jazz Alley in Seattle a week ago. Mose, who is 80, came out looking like a slightly more well-groomed Willie Nelson. His voice was a little shaky, but it's never been strong, so no loss there. My favorite song of the evening was his 1983 look at his career, "Getting There:" "I'm not discouraged, but I'm getting there." He also did his version of "You Are My Sunshine," with chords and melody altered to bring out the meaning of the lyrics. It's the only version of this song I've ever liked. Coryell's opening solo set was mixed - he did a beautiful version of Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me," but he also did "Black Orpheus" (does the world need another version of this?) and a technically impressive, but pretty pompous and vapid variation on Ravel's "Bolero." Karen liked the latter, though, so maybe I'm just being picky. I forgave Larry for everything, though, when he sat in for the second half of Mose's set. His playing was just perfect, even on songs that he obviously had never played before and was feeling his way through. He filled in at the right times, stayed out of the way at the right times, and played some great, bluesy solos. A very enjoyable, even inspiring, evening.

Don't think I don't appreciate your sage advice.
Don't think I haven't noticed
How you put me down so nice.

"What's With You" - Mose Allison

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