Sunday, August 9, 2015

Mose Allison – "I'm Not Talking" (1964)

If I said things is splendid
Someone would be offended
If I said things were awful
It might just be unlawful
I'm not talkin', it just don't pay

Mose Allison had it right.  You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't, so you might as well just keep your damn mouth shut.

Allison was born in 1927 on a farm near Tippo, Mississippi.  He took piano lessons when he wasn't picking cotton, and wrote his first song when he was just 13 (which happened to be the same year electricity came to Tippo).

After earning a B.A. in English at LSU and spending a couple of years in the Army, Allison moved to New York City in 1956.  He performed with jazz artists like Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, and Zoot Sims before forming his own trio.

Mose Allison then
But he is best known for his blues records.  He is such a convincing blues performer that Jet magazine asked him for an interview because they thought he was black.

Allison, who is 88 years old, only recently retired from live performances.

I had never heard of Mose Allison until I ran across the Yardbirds' cover of his "I'm Not Talking" a couple of weeks ago. 

Mose Allison now
A few days later, his name popped up in Merritt Tierce's 2014 novel, Love Me Back

One of the characters in Love Me Back is Jimmy, the pianist at an expensive steak restaurant in Dallas whose patrons usually request show tunes or hits by Elton John or Billy Joel. 

Jimmy's tastes run more to Chopin and great jazz pianists that the restaurant's customers have never heard of, like Allison:

[W]hen Jimmy stepped out for his break at nine . . . [h]e would sit in the driver's seat [of his minivan] with the window rolled down, listening to Mose Allison.  

Mose Allison wrote some very good songs.  He was a voracious reader, and his song lyrics were always intelligent and often quite witty – one critic called him "the Mark Twain of jazz."

The musicians who have covered his songs include the Who, the Clash, Leon Russell, and Elvis Costello.  In 1996, Van Morrison recorded an entire album of Mose Allison songs.

"I'm Not Talking" (which was released on the 1964 album, The Word from Mose) is one of Allison's best original compositions.  Allmusic's Matthew Greenwald has written that the song "is a veiled threat of pure attitude, something that the author was never short of."

Here's Mose Allison's recording of "I'm Not Talking."  In the words of the late Stuart Scott, it's as cool as the other side of the pillow:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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