Way of the World
[Anti- Records 87059 (2010)]
Although he has toured steadily, 82 year old jazz icon, master songwriter and piano virtuoso Mose Allison did not release a studio recording for a dozen years prior to his new effort The Way of the World. The album was produced by singer-songwriter Joe Henry, who has established a second career as producer of choice for roots artists by bringing out what they do best without a lot of embellishment. On this disc, Allison is mostly set in a small combo format—bass, drums, guitar and occasional horns, with his funky piano and laconic vocals way out front. The instrumentalists, notably guitarist Greg Liesz, add new textures to Allison’s work without diluting his distinctive persona. Allison’s wordplay is as sharp and witty as ever, and he has no trouble poking fun at himself with the playful “My Brain” or contemplating mortality in the moody “Let It Come Down” and the sly, slinky title tune. Allison calls for a moratorium on reliance on religion with “Modest Proposal” and whips out a loping instrumental “The Crush” full of audacious melodic and rhythmic jumps. Allison covers Loudon Wainwright’s self-effacing “I’m Allright” and closes with an old Buddy Johnson ballad, “New Situation,” which he sings as a duet with daughter his daughter Amy. The Way of the World is a high water mark in Allison’s long and illustrious career, and Henry deserves kudos for coaxing him back into the studio.
—Michael Parrish (San Jose, CA)