If jazz is to ever have a poet laureate, it might well consider Mose Allison, the singer-pianist-composer who not only presents his own magically effusive lyrics in a unique and swinging style, but delivers the words and music of others in an equally effective manner.
Who, save the late Nat King Cole, for instance, could better manage the cumbersome "Meet Me at No Special Place and I'll Be There at No Particular Time" than the Mississippi-born Allison, who began a four-night stint at the Vine St. Bar & Grill Wednesday night? Or, for that matter, who could turn the upbeat "You Are My Sunshine" into a slow and meandering blues, the mournful "Tumblin' Tumbleweed" into a lightly rendered air, the Victor Herbert classic "Indian Summer" into a bop exercise?
Though his piano stylings have grown a bit bombastic, the singing part of Allison has retained its youthful whimsy. Indeed, while his two-tune instrumental opening of Wednesday night's first set was lacking the subtlety he automatically delivers behind his own vocals, he nonetheless exhibited extraordinary skills. It's just that it's the lyrics, delivered in that inimitable Southern voice--rough around the edges, smooth in the middle--that has made Allison the enduring jazz figure he is.