Album Remarks & Appraisals:
2010 album from the Jazz pianist, his return to the recording studio after a 12 year absence. Working with maverick producer Joe Henry, Allison has found his most sympathetic setting in years, surrounded by young, vibrant players, who add surprising slide guitar and some sinewy saxophone to the classic Mose sound; The Way Of The World also features Mose's first-ever duet with his daughter, singer Amy Allison. Yet this album is all Mose, from the solo song 'Modest Proposal' to the modernist, Monkish changes he takes the band through on the lone instrumental, 'Crush'.
"Mose Allison, at 82, remains a gifted pianist, a laidback singer whose songs are often too clever for their own good - an artist caught in the cracks between jazz and blues. For his first studio recording since 1997, Allison leads a trio augmented by tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, acoustic and electric guitars and mandola.
He's as sly as ever, poking fun at conventional religious thinking with the bouncy "Modest Proposal," lamenting woes of contemporary life on the smoky, after-midnight title track, and making a world-weary plea to be treated right on the barroom ramble "Ask Me Nice." "My brain is steady working," he sings on the jaunty opening tune.
Not to worry, that gray matter still operates on hipster time." -AllAboutJazz
Rolling Stone (p.75) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Allison's leathery voice, sharp wit and jaunty piano improvisations remain remarkably undiminished."
Down Beat - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Allison's piano playing is traditional in tone, thumping discreetly in self-accompaniment and occasionally taking over in long serpentine lines with percussive markers.
JazzTimes (p.59) - "[T]he session's high points are the instrumental 'Crush' and the memorable title track, which pairs the elder Allison with his country vocalist daughter Amy for the first time on record."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.105) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he man from Tippo, Mississippi still fashions originals with lyrics that amuse and inform, and delivers them in trademark laconic mode..."
Uncut (magazine) (p.83) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[P]leasingly evoking a sweet, after hours blues cellar...all slide and sax..."
Personnel: Mose Allison (vocals, piano); Greg Leisz (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandola); Anthony Wilson (electric guitar); Walter Smith III (tenor saxophone); David Piltch (upright bass); Jay Bellerose (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Ryan Freeland.
Liner Note Author: Joe Henry.
Recording information: The Garfield House, South Pasadena, CA (07/27/2009-07/31/2009).
Photographer: Michael Wilson .
Mose Allison basically retired from studio recording after 1998's dynamite Gimcracks and Gewgaws. Retired, that is, until producer Joe Henry met him in 2008 and dogged him until he graciously caved in. He coaxed Allison into his basement studio and cut the seven originals and five covers that became The Way of the World with a host of players from his own stable in five days. At 82, Allison is as smart, cagey, and inventive as ever. All but one of these cuts feature his weathered but still wiry dry baritone voice that exudes a trademark jazz singer cum beat poet's phrasing. For anyone who's seen him in the last decade -- or heard his jaw-dropping Live in London recordings -- his keyboard skills are sharp as an Argentine stiletto: give a listen to the lone instrumental, "Crush." Allison's elastic harmonic sense is as beautifully unruly as Monk's, yet his improvisational ideas are carried by a nimble-fingered force worthy of Bud Powell. The opener, "My Brain," is a smoking rewrite of Willie Dixon's "My Babe." Allison reflects on the ever-changing intellectual capabilities of his gray matter while punching up the piano's middle register. The blues have been at the heart of Allison's piano attack (Back Country Suite, 1957), though he's always wedded them to swing, rag, and bop. Henry underscores that with subtle touches: the strummed Gypsy swing mandola on the ironic betrayal anthem "I Know You Didn't Mean It" that engages with a knotty bluesed-out piano break and a warm tenor solo -- à la Ben Webster -- and "Everybody Thinks You're an Angel," a waltz with a Weissenborn guitar, follows a similar principle to delightfully different ends. On "Modest Proposal" Allison humorously asserts the compassionate idea that perhaps God is so weary he deserves a vacation. It's a strutting piano-and-vocal number, where Allison's saloon-singer irony might scandalize a preacher but makes the congregation laugh. The elegant parlor ballad "Once in a While" and the shuffling, not brokenhearted blues of "I'm Alright" also stand out. The latter's addition of electric guitar, mandola, and saxophone might seem like frills for an Allison session, but sound perfectly balanced and natural. On the final track, Buddy Johnson's WWII-era pop tune "This New Situation," Allison duets with daughter Amy; the two swing beautifully together. The Way of the World is not a comeback album; Henry had a nagging suspicion that Allison might have something new to say and Allison obliged. In the process they created a gem of an album that proves the pianist and songwriter still has many tricks up his elegantly tailored, eternally hip sleeve. ~ Thom Jurek
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