Smokin’ Mose

Jazz legend Allison lights up Big Room

Mose Allison

Mose Allison

Photo By Tom Angel

Mose Allison

Sierra Nevada, Big Room

Mon., May 17

A most unassuming-looking trio took the stage. The man in the orange ball cap and tan button-up shirt who seated himself behind the drums looked like someone I might run into at the local auto parts store. The upright bassist appeared no less ordinary. The white-haired man who sat behind the electric piano—dressed plainly in light-blue, long-sleeved, button-up shirt, gray slacks and running shoes—was Southern blues-jazz icon Mose Allison. He started up the band, and the room was never the same again.

All three quickly showed their superior chops as they segued into the early part of the two-set show like the groovin'-est jam band. They made it look easy, but 10 minutes into it, phenomenal bassist Bill Douglass, who also tours with another legend, jazz pianist Marian McPartland, was already sweating.

Allison—76-years young with his alluring signature voice—is the king of lyrics. Whether singing his own or those of other songwriters, Allison consistently delivered clever phrases to make you laugh and feel slightly sad at the same time: “You call it joggin'/ But I call it runnin’ around…” “Prehistoric goons are making all the rules/ And resurrected Huns are passing out the guns…” “I been so far/ I must be back…”

Allison sang all his biggies: “I Love the Life I Live” “Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy,” “Seventh Son,” “Your Mind’s On Vacation.” He also did an exquisite version of Duke Ellington’s “Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me” ("Lyrics by Bob Russell,” he added) and a particularly sweet, slow and unusual version of a song “by the former governor of Louisiana, Jimmie Davis": “You Are My Sunshine.”

Of course, we called for—and got—an encore.