For more than four decades, Mose Allison has remained a genuinely hip guy. As a composer, his songs are durably amusing, his piano-playing is inventive and assured and his rusty vocals carry an impishly devilish twang. He’s a master of cool jazz mixed with a heady blend of blues and country sass. In a rare Gotham gig, Allison is generously supported by a crackerjack trio, featuring guitarist Joe Cohn, a player of spirit and flowing imagination.
Allison’s style is uniquely personal. Few have ventured into his sunny blend of swamp jazz. It is essentially down-home terrain, yet there is sophistication in his startling range of color and ideas. Much of his repertoire has a familiar handle, from the heady dose of “drinkin’ and gamblin’ ” to be found in “Fool’s Paradise” and the loping blues of “Tell Me Something” to Willie Dixon’s fanciful “A Little Lively Love.” His own compositions carry a straightforward narrative. They tell a story and are generously flush with wit.
He takes an old chestnut like “You Are My Sunshine,” written by former Louisiana Gov. Jimmie Davis, and makes it an endearing ballad. It’s easy to be seduced by “Indian Summer”: The melodic structure of Victor Herbert’s 90-year-old tune is so completely captivating, it truly mesmerized the young aud. It featured a splendid solo by Cohn, whose single-line thoughts are well sustained and flowing. Cohn is the son of legendary tenor man Al Cohn, who formed a close musical association with Allison.
Mississippi-born Allison is at home in the backcountry. His reading of “Stranger in My Own Home Town” has all the rich syrupy twang of Delta blues. “You Call It Jogging, I Call It Runnin’ Around” is a fun romp, by John D. Loudermilk, and Allison reveals the knee-slapping humor of it.