Art Works Blog

Spotlight on Mose Allison

"Mose Allison to me is the pinnacle of the jazz singer/songwriter. His razor sharp wit cuts through in his lyrics and he backs them up with equally witty and clever harmonies and melodies. Mose is a national treasure." ---Guitarist/vocalist Doug Wamble

"Mose Allison's music falls right between blues and jazz. He's got the real old blues feel but can play modern jazz and he swings like mad. His singing is perfect and his lyrics are hilarious. We've all secretly tried to sing like him and I hope he knows he has inspired generations of would-be blues/swingers. I guess because he started out playing with Al and Zoot and Getz, and combined that style with the real blues, he's ended up being completely special. What he started a long time ago has become somewhat familiar, but no one can do it like he does." ---Guitarist and composer John Scofield

An instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter, 2013 NEA Jazz Master Mose Allison is adept in both the blues and jazz, defying categorization and inspiring musicians across genres. Born in the Mississippi Delta, Allison started playing piano at the age of five, learned trumpet in school, and began composing his own songs at a young age. His first musical influences were country blues artists as well as Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan, and Nat “King” Cole. In 1946 Allison joined the United States Army and became a member of the 179th Army Ground Forces Band. Allison earned his BA degree in English and philosophy at Louisiana State University, while also playing gigs and concentrating on piano playing. In 1956, Allison moved to New York where he recorded an album with Al Cohn and Bob Brookmeyer, and several with Cohn and Zoot Sims. His association with Frank Isola led to touring and recording with Stan Getz. In 1957, Allison landed a record contract with Prestige Records, recording Back Country Suite. Allison became a proficient songwriter, fusing blues and jazz music with witty and profound lyrics, influencing noted songwriters such as Tom Waits, Pete Townsend, and Elvis Costello. In 1994, Rhino Records released a box set retrospective of his work, Allison Wonderland. His biography, One Man's Blues: The Life and Music of Mose Allison, written by Patti Jones, was published in 1995. In 2010, Allison released The Way of the World.

On January 14th at 7:30 p.m., tune in to our live webcast of the 2013 NEA Jazz Masters Ceremony and Concert! The evening will feature performances by past NEA Jazz Masters such as Paquito D'Rivera, Jimmy Cobb, Kenny Barron, and Sheila Jordan, and will celebrate this year’s class of honorees: Lorraine Gordon, Mose Allison, Lou Donaldson, and Eddie Palmieri. Click here for more information.

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