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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mose Allison plays Blind Willie's tonight

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At the ripe age of 81, you would think pianist Mose Allison would be content to simply take it easy and enjoy life. Well, he does, but his enjoyment is playing live music on the road — over 100 shows a year. It's a lifestyle he's maintained since the 1950s, and even in his ninth decade he shows few signs of slowing down.

A self-taught player, Allison was raised listening to and learning from the deep delta blues, New Orleans jazz and classic boogie woogie of the era. With few constraints to shape his playing style, he absorbed what he heard, and put it all together to create his own unique sound.

Allison had little luck finding his true defining niche, but that may have worked in his favor. Defying categorization, he has been marketed as a pop singer, a jazz artist, a blues guy and who knows what else throughout his illustrious career. The labels don’t really matter, its all about the music.

Originally from a small town in Mississippi, Allison relocated to New York City after college and a military stint. Word about his playing got around, and he scored gigs with legends such as Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. But it was Allison’s own compositions and trio that actually brought him to the forefront.

A songwriter with a degree in English can be a scary thing, however Allison uses his knowledge of language and literature to create thoughtful, witty songs. Often referred to as the “William Faulkner of Jazz”, he is best known for classics such as “Parchman Farm,” “Young Man’s Blues,” and the iconic “Your Mind Is On Vacation.” Tunes from his oeuvre has been covered by the Who, Eric Clapton, the Yardbirds, Bonnie Raitt, the Clash, Elvis Costello, and Van Morrison, who did an entire tribute album of Allison material. Clearly, the influence and respect Mose Allison has generated is well-earned.

Mose Allison with Neal Starkey. $20. 9 p.m. & 11 p.m. Tonight. Blind Willie’s, 828 N. Highland Ave. 404-873-BLUE.

(Photo courtesy Mose Allison)

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