Mose Allison's career in his golden and quite fruitful years has yielded many surprises and challenges, not the least of which is this delightful offering. He continues to write attractive, bouncy, and fun tunes carried by his signature roiling piano style and sly lyrics. For this effort, producer and Allison disciple Ben Sidran hooked him up with musicians from the modern New Orleans jazz scene, including Astral Project members – the extraordinary drummer John Vidacovich, tenor saxophonist Tony Dagradi, and guitarist Steve Masakowski.
Mose Allison, who was a musical institution long before 1987, had not run out of creative juices after 30 years of major league performances. This set finds him introducing such ironically truthful songs as "Ever Since The World Ended," "Top Forty," "I Looked In The Mirror" and "What's Your Movie." The many guest artists (including altoist Arthur Blythe, tenor-saxophonist Bennie Wallace, Bob Malach on both alto and tenor and guitarist Kenny Burrell) are unnecessary frivolities but Allison's trio (with bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Tom Whaley) is tight and ably backs the unique singer-pianist.
Brett Dean is not shy about revealing what his music is ‘about’. Whether inspired by certain individuals (as in Epitaphs), or by an ecological or human disaster (as in his String Quartet No. 1, on the now all too topical plight of refugees), Dean’s works are usually – perhaps invariably – driven by extra-musical narratives. Rather than tease out any innate structural puzzles or tensions, his music typically falls into short little dramatic narratives – no movement on this disc lasts as long as eight minutes, many of them rather less than five. The most obviously successful work here is Quartet No. 2, ‘And once I played Ophelia’, effectively a dramatic scena. Its soprano soloist is no mere extra voice (as in Schoenberg’s Second Quartet) but the leading protagonist. Allison Bell’s genuinely affecting performance is backed by the Doric Quartet’s expressionist scampering and sustained harmonies, the strings occasionally coming to the fore in the manner of a Schumann-style song postlude.
Luther Allison seemed to be on a roll when he died in 1998. He was back home after many years in Europe, and was winning awards and making a good living. This, his debut album, was cut in 1969 when he was 30 years old. He sang as if barely able to keep a lid on his emotion, and the elegance and precision of his guitar playing belied the fact that he had only been playing the instrument for a few years. If this debut can be faulted it's only in that it relies too heavily on overfamiliar standards like "Little Red Rooster," "Five Long Years," "Dust My Broom," "Sky Is Crying," and "Every Night About This Time." The CD reissue has been expanded with alternate takes and bonus cuts.
A follow-up to his previous Soul Fixin' Man (which uses the same personnel and may be from the same sessions), bluesman guitarist/singer Luther Allison is in top form throughout this well-rounded set. Allison wrote (or co-wrote with guitarist James Solberg) all but one of the dozen songs, and these range from heated blues struts to blues ballads. Recommended to fans of lowdown, intense Chicago blues.
Soul Fixin' Man was blues guitarist/vocalist Luther Allison's first American recording in nearly 20 years. However, his domestic inactivity was not because Allison had stopped playing music. Far from it, since he was based in Paris and worked constantly on the European continent. A powerful player whose intensity on this set sometimes borders on rock (although remaining quite grounded in blues), Luther Allison (who contributed eight of the dozen songs) displays the large amount of musical growth he had experienced since the mid-'70s. Joined by his quintet, the Memphis Horns, and (on "Freedom") a choir, Allison is heard throughout in top form.
Allison was a major star in blues America when he was cut down by lung cancer and brain tumors in August 1997. But for a long time before celebrity caught up with him, the exciting guitarist was far better-known in Europe than in this United States. This French session dates from 1977, when the 38-year-old Chicago bluesman first earned standing ovations from European crowds and began contemplating his eventual move to Paris. Unlike his high-energy recordings in the '90s, Allison is in a relaxed mood throughout the program here, modulating his pointed expressions of heartbreak on blues standards (Little Walter's "Last Night" and Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway," to name two) and on originals (the title track and "It's Too Late"). Three tracks, all good, are added for CD reissue. On this memorable session, pianist-organist Sid Wingfield and a rhythm section capably back up the main man.
Bernard Allison got some valuable advice from his father, Luther, before the latter's death in 1997: "Don't be afraid to go outside of the blues," he said. "Don't let them label you like they did me." Bernard has obviously taken that advice to heart; his solo albums have been a rich mixture of rock, funk, blues, and R&B. Most of his recordings have been released in Europe, where he has made his home for a decade. The release of Higher Power comes a little while after his return to the States, and reflects a lifetime of both good times and bad.