Mose Allison: Down Home Piano (Transatlantic PR7423)

MOSE ALLISON and his work are both pretty well known by now to jazz and blues lovers over here. This album, to set down first what it is and is not, reissues ten of his trio performances featuring piano only (no vocals or trumpet from Mose) with bass and drums.

Allison made at least six albums for Prestige, from which this selects ten of his own compositions, most of them descriptive little sketches from his Creek Bank and Local Colour LPs released here earlier on the Esquire label.

Here, for reasons not clear to me, the pieces have been mixed up so that they appear quite out of sequence. The odd vocal numbers in the original suites or groups had to be left out because they have already appeared on the singing selection, Mose Allison Sings.

But I cannot see why, for instance, the Creek Bank quartet of tunes have been spread about over both sides of the reissue album. Never mind, though; a certain similarity in tempo and mood unites several of these pieces regardless of how they started life.

The playing, as we expect from Allison, is clean and deft and imbued with a composer’s sense of form. Mose is an individualist, and his particular signature is imprinted on all the upper-tempo pieces such as ‘Creek Bank’, ‘Mule’ (a surprisingly bright and happy beast), ‘Dinner’, ‘Carnival’, ‘Devil’, and ‘Town’.

Allison promotes a scampering, bouncy sort of rhythm which he seems to associate with his “back country” flavour. The contrast comes with the slower, more reflective ‘Cypress’ and ‘Crepuscular’. I don’t find a whole album of this piano music varied enough to hold my interest keenly, but I’ve heard a lot worse in the field of keyboard jazz.

Addison Farmer, on bass throughout, and Ronnie Free (on all but four tracks) show an intelligent trio approach, and drummers and bassist join in with solo bits and sundry exchanges. For me, one of Mose’s weary-humorous vocals would have come as a relief.

© Max JonesMelody Maker, 11 February 1967

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