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JAZZ REVIEW : Allison Proves He Hasn't Lost That Youthful Spark

August 25, 1994|DON HECKMAN

In the initial song on his new album, 66-year-old Mose Allison describes himself as a "certified senior citizen." But the Mississippi-born pianist and songwriter has always chosen to view the world through a somewhat whimsical prism. Snowy white beard and shiny pate to the contrary, Allison played an opening-night set at Catalina Bar & Grill on Tuesday that was as energetically youthful as anything he's ever done.

Wasting no time with idle pleasantries, Allison kicked off his program with a multisegmented instrumental work--a wild, unexpected ride across a musical landscape ranging from Kurt Weill and Cajun to be-bop and free jazz. It was a startling entrance for a performer so associated with laid-back, jazz and blues-tinged vocalizing, and one that had bassist Eric von Essen and drummer Paul Kreibich hanging on for dear life.

But Allison soon dipped into his seemingly inexhaustible supply of songs. Characteristically, he made everything, original and otherwise, his own. Witty renditions of Willie Dixon's classic line "I Live the Life I Love, and I Love the Life I Lead" and the Nat Cole swinger "Meet Me at No Special Place" were juxtaposed against harmonically evocative versions of "Indian Summer" and "You Are My Sunshine."

Allison added a few of his original tunes, including several from the new album, "The Earth Wants You." But for the most part, he appeared to be concerned with a far-reaching eclecticism rather than a rehash of the past. In fact, the best description of his feisty and persistently varied performance may come from Allison's own lyrics: "I'm a certified senior citizen. . . . just don't give me that ol'-timer crap."

* The Mose Allison Trio at Catalina Bar & Grill, 1640 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. (213) 466-2210. $12 cover tonight and Sunday; $15 cover Friday-Saturday; two-drink minimum. Allison plays two sets each night, 8:30 and 10:30, through Sunday.

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