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Concert Review by Nick Morgan

Pizza Express Jazz Club, London, May 1st 2005 - by Nick Morgan

England: Food
(21st Century - personnal archives)

  Hey Serge, have you tried that new Pizza thing? I’m not sure if you have it in France yet, but I’m sure you soon will. Apparently it was invented in America (I think by a man called Domino Pizza) – and it’s a bit like a pork-pie. Flattened that is, and without the pork, and with a much thinner pastry crust, covered with white gooey stuff, tinned tomatoes and lots of bits and pieces of foodie thingies. Yummy! And you can eat it with your fingers, so there’s much less washing up to worry about. Ace!
The reason I got to eat one was that Mike (remember him – Racoon skin hat and French cigarettes?) was in town. “Let’s go and see Mose Allison at the Pizza Express” he said. Well I have to confess that I know almost as much – or as little – about Mose A. as I do about Pizza. And much of what I do know is thanks to covers by other artistes, amongst whom I should mention the good old Barcodes (although the list is endless), who are great fans. Anyway, Mike was very excited (if you can imagine that) so off we went to see Mr A. performing during one of his twice yearly three week visits to London (if you want to share the Pizza fuelled atmosphere then check out the two live CDs recorded at this venue).  
Mose Allison Mike Nicolson
Mose Allison (left) with Mike Nicolson (right), blues guitarist extraordinaire and ex-distillery manager at Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Royal Lochnagar etc. You can read an interesting and funny interview with Mike on Maltmaniacs.
Nice venue, good seats, Pizza (hmmmmm …) and a full house to welcome this diminutive septuagenarian and his band, bass player Andy Weinberg and drummer Paul Clarvis. Now I should apologise to Andy if I’ve misspelt his name but would point out that these two London based performers were quite excellent, particularly given that they were chasing Mose most of the night as he moved from song to song, calling out numbers (a bit like ordering in a Thai restaurant then) to guide them through the extensive song book that he carries round with him. And not all his; so we were treated to tunes by Percy Mayfield, Jimmy Davies (‘You are my sunshine’ – a real treat for Morecambe and Wise fans everywhere), Johnnie Fuller, Big Joe Williams (‘Baby please don’t go’) Robert Lockwood and Willie Dixon (several times, including ‘I live life to love and love life to live’). But no matter the writer, each song came through strongly with a real Mose twist (sometimes a twist of the knife).
Born in the Mississippi Delta, inspired by early jazz greats (such as Fats Waller, Louis Jordan and Duke Ellington), an English and Philosophy graduate, a pianist to the stars (Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan) Allison appears to combine a wide array of influences. Whilst his piano playing (and frankly I’m somewhat out of my depth here) seems to move from laid back blues through fairly free running jazz with a hint of well-informed classicism, his voice and lyrics suggest (the highly unfashionable) Hoagy Carmichael, Tom Lehrer, and the mightily misogynistic James Thurber.   Mose Allison
But the end result is hugely compelling, the music great, and the songs so wickedly funny that it was hard to keep a straight face. “This guys over 70 and he’s still taking the piss – I like that” said Mike.
‘Ever since the world ended I don’t get out much anymore’, ‘Look what you made me do’ (with a rhyming sequence of “avenue”, “Suburu” and “moon blue”), ‘The foodkiller’, ‘What’s your move’ (“are you the artist that’s misunderstood, or the bad guy who’s trying to do good”), ‘Certified senior citizen’ (a Barcodes favourite), ‘Who’s out who’s in’, ‘Your mind is on vacation’ (“but your mouth is working overtime”), (“I’m not downhearted but I’m almost”) ‘Getting there’, ‘The more you get’ (“the more you’ve got to loose”). Well you probably begin to get the picture. Razor sharp lyrics with a deadpan delivery (is that some sort of Pizza service too Serge?) and elegant improvised musical discursions in between. Over thirty songs in two sets. Pizza heaven indeed. Nick Morgan (photos by Kate, except pizza by London Institute of International Studies of Biological Weapons of Mass Destruction)

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