Mose Allison and Clark Terry Quintet with Hank Jones
January 1, 1970Two stories in the Boston Globe this week: a profile of the legendary Mose Allison and this morning's review of Thursday night's Clark Terry-Hank Jones show at the reopening of the Regattabar
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Two jazz greats strike up the band
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | July 24, 2004
Clark Terry, 83, produced a ripple of laughter with a blunt assessment of the so-called "golden years" as he left the stage on Thursday night, midway through the first set of the newly reopened Regattabar.
"You're doing fine, Clark," replied Hank Jones, who will turn 86 next Saturday. Jones had just briskly strolled to the stage for the solo piano segment of their joint show, and was seated on the piano bench watching Terry brace himself on an assistant who was leading him offstage.
There was nothing infirm, however, about either of these octogenarians' playing. Between them — and with the help of Terry's quintet of alto saxophonist David Glasser, pianist Don Friedman, bassist Marcus McLaurine, and drummer Sylvia Cuenca — they put to rest fears that the new R-bar management would stop booking authentic jazz.
Terry's group opened the set with "The Hymn." Terry played fluegelhorn with casual virtuosity, his right foot propped on a red plastic carton as he and Glasser sat beside each other on bar chairs at the front of the stage.
After solos by each band member, save McLaurine, and a quick quoted snippet of Dizzy Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts," came Duke Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone," followed by "My Romance," a ballad that Terry noted had been popularized by Ben Webster. Terry and Glasser alternated portions of the song's theme, Terry conjuring Webster's robust tone and Glasser sounding even more like Johnny Hodges than he had on the previous tune. Friedman and McLaurine each contributed finely crafted solos to the ballad, and did so again on "On Green Dolphin Street."
Jones, meanwhile, had been seated at the back of the room, and it was at this point that Terry called him up to the stage. Jones played four pieces by himself — Joe Henderson's "Recorda-Me," Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood," his own "Alone Together," and the standard "Polka Dots and Moonbeams."
The subtlety of Jones's ideas matched the subtlety of his exquisite touch, and his mastery of the piano was something to marvel at — as Friedman himself did from a table nearby.
Jones then obliged Terry by having McLaurine and Cuenca join him on a joyful trio romp through Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-a-ning."
The set concluded with everyone but Friedman zipping through "Strike Up the Band," with performers segueing into a march tempo for the fun of it toward the end, at Terry's instigation.
Clark Terry Quintet
With Hank Jones
At: Regattabar, first set, Thursday (repeats tonight)
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Legendary pianist stays true to his Delta roots
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | July 23, 2004
A few months ago in Marblehead, folk singer Greg Brown sang his sardonic tribute "Mose Allison Played Here," which recounts how a best-forgotten club experience by Brown was made bearable by the knowledge the legendary jazz pianist-singer-songwriter had played the same dismal dive "once last November."
Tomorrow night, Allison will perform in Marblehead — and at a much more inviting venue. He'll be at the Unitarian-Universalist Church, the fourth of six headliners lined up for Marblehead's 20th annual summer jazz festival.
Brown was hardly the first pop artist to honor Allison, who, at 76, still performs about 120 dates a year across the country and overseas.
First was the Who, which began performing Allison's "Young Man Blues" in the mid-'60s, and later opened the album "Live at Leeds" with a version of it. (At the time, Allison had not heard of the Who. But when the royalty checks began arriving — the first of which was for four figures rather than the usual two — Allison thought a mistake had been made.)
More recently, Van Morrison got together with sometime collaborator Georgie Fame and frequent Allison record producer (as well as pianist, singer, author, and former jazz radio personality) Ben Sidran to record the 1996 CD "Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison."
"Other musicians have kept me going just by doing my material and saying good things about me and so forth," Allison says by phone from his Long Island home.
"I haven't relied on the usual stuff, like a big record. I've never had a big record, and I've never played any of the big TV shows. I've never had a publicist, any of that."
What Allison has had is a style all his own. It was built on his Mississippi Delta roots, an idiosyncratic, self-taught mix of bebop, blues, and classical piano, and a thick songbook crammed with ironic commentary on modern life's absurdities, documented most recently on a pair of live CDs recorded at London's Pizza Express in January 2000. (The first of these, "The Mose Chronicles — Live in London, Volume 1" was a Grammy finalist for best jazz vocal album.)
Allison grew up in Tippo, Miss., studied English and philosophy at the University of Mississippi and Louisiana State University, and by 1950 was performing regularly in Lake Charles, La., with a repertoire heavy on Louis Jordan and Nat King Cole covers. Allison and his wife, Audre, moved to New York in 1956. There Allison found work as a sideman in bands led by Stan Getz, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, Gerry Mulligan, and Chet Baker. He put out his first album, "Back Country Suite," in 1957, but it wasn't until the early '60s that he began working regularly with his own trios and writing his better-known songs.
"I always tell people my stuff comes from three different inspirations," Allison says. "One of them is the Mississippi Delta, the speech patterns, the aphorisms and the exaggerations I got from there. Another is jazz musicians. And the third is the English major."
Allison says he's named songs for a Stephen Vincent Benet story ("Fool-Killer") and a line from Shakespeare ("Let It Come Down"). Sidran, meanwhile, has gone so far as to call Allison "the William Faulkner of Jazz." Allison says he used to see Faulkner around town in his Ole Miss days, but considers the comparison "a pretty far reach." He laughs. "We both have mustaches, though."
Sidran stands by the comparison. "I just said that because his songs have such a back-story to them," he explains. "And that back-story has such a deep Southern sensibility. The idea of the young man searching for his home in the South, the idea of the moral compass that guides you through the chaos of the world."
Explaining where he gets his slant on life, Allison says, "Well, from all the farmers down there in the Mississippi Delta, that's pervasive down there, because everybody's completely dependent on the weather, you know. And nobody says anything out straight — there's a lot of irony and exaggeration and understatement, stuff like that."
Despite touring regularly, Allison says his songwriting these days is limited to stuff he does around the house for his own amusement. Allison remembers Thelonious Monk's response to being asked years ago whether he was writing any new songs.
"He said, `Man, I'm waiting for somebody to listen to the old ones,' " Allison recalls. "And that's exactly the way I feel."
Mose Allison performs tomorrow at 8 p.m. at Marblehead Summer Jazz 2004, Unitarian-Universalist Church, 28 Mugford St. Tickets $23.50 in advance, $25 at the door. Call 781-631-6366 or www.marbleheadjazz.org.
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