Mose, My Hero
Tibor R. Machan
Of course, I am just a fan of Mose Allison, he’s not really my main hero but now and then I get enthusiastic about his work and nearly idolize him.
Mose Allison is a jazz pianist, composer and perhaps the coolest cat on the jazz and blues scene. I’ve had the good fortune of witnessing him play on numerous occasions, from the days when I lived in Santa Barbara, at El Paseo Restaurant back in the 19070s, to Harry’s Bar in Century City, the MOMA and the Bakery Jazz club in Los Angeles, and most recently, on June 30, 2010, at Madison Square Park in New York City. Of course, I have virtually all of his music on my well- and eclectically populated iPod (7400 pieces of music of the greatest variety you can imagine, all uploaded from my CDs by me into my iTunes system on my Mac). Next to my all-time favorite pianist, Erroll Garner, Mose is the top for sure. (Not that I am narrow about this--Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers, among quite a few others, send me too, such as the Allman Brothers, Billy Holiday, Pete Fountain, Sidney Bechet, Ella Fitzgerald, Eric Clapton, Albert Collins, Mozart, Camille Saint-Saëns, Zoltan Kodaly and many many more.)
My current reason for deciding to celebrate Mose is a bit odd. He is one of the oldest jazz musicians still making the circuit regularly, having just recently returned from recording live two CDs in London, just as a sample. He is in his early 80s and sings and writes and plays the piano uniquely and superbly. (Is it just me who finds that pianists tend to play on and on into old age, like Horowitz and Rubinstein, for instance?)
What fascinates me is how Mose & Co. seem never to retire. And they flourish, it seems, although I don’t know their personal lives so well as to swear to this. But as far as doing what they do is concerned, they seem not to be in the retirement business. (Which reminds me of a remark attributed to, of all people, Bob Dylan, namely, “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” Not bad for a quip!) Of course, for some folks retirement is probably very appropriate, especially if much of what they do for a living taxes them physically. But I have trouble fathoming it--writers, too, seem to just go on and on, whether anyone wants them to do so. In Mose Allison’s case, which seems to be a life of musical multitasking par excellance, the determination not to quit is probably an artistic and medical imperative. It probably contributes significantly to his longevity and happiness.
Mose is a very inventive lyricist although both original and borrowed songs fill up his repertoire. “Your Mind is on Vacation,” “Seventh Son,” “Fool’s Paradise,” “They Call it Jogging,” “Getting There” (which contains the hilarious line “thirty years in show business and only had one wife”) and “Since I fell for you” are just a few of my favorites.
There is a lot of stuff going around the world that’s disgusting, sad, tragic even, but then there are the likes of Mose Allison who balance it out, almost, with the most entertaining and wonderful offerings, at least for the likes of me. Aside from family and some of the great places I have managed to visit around the globe, the music that surrounds me, as well as the novels and paintings, pretty much prove that even with all the bad business, life is quite a worthy trip. And it can go on and on for quite some time, especially, I assume, if one keeps one’s mind and body active and learns to follow the Seventh Day Adventists’ bumper sticker I ran across once in Atlanta: “Notice the good and praise it.”