For 40 years now the world has failed to heed Mose Allison's humorous warnings and ironic observations, his gimlet-eyed advice disguised in homespun metaphors--and that makes his laconic philosophizing as essential as ever. On his new album, Gimcracks and Gewgaws (Blue Note), he occasionally updates his bemused outrage, as in "The More You Get," his latest poke at out-of-control materialism: "The panic goes on, day after day / With your cellular phone, you're into the fray / The chance to make money is hard to refuse / But the more you get, the more you got to lose." But he almost doesn't need to, since his earlier songs about keeping it simple--from "If You're Goin' to the City" (from the 60s) to "Who's In, Who's Out" (1994)--have held up remarkably well. Otherwise Gimcracks has a lot in common with its predecessors: reflections on growing old both feisty ("What Will It Be") and poignant ("Texanna"), a delightful reaffirmation of his own identity ("MJA Jr."), a reworked standard ("St. Louis Blues"), a lost treasure dredged up (his own "Fires of Spring," from the 1970s). And there's nothing new in the workmanlike, even grim way old man Mose conducts the business of performance. A typical set finds him spinning through 15 or more of his tunes, filling the spaces between lyrics with short, intense piano solos--hybrids of bebop, blues, and ragtime at machine-gun tempi--and wasting little time on audience interaction or anecdotal introduction. Still, with his charismatic blend of Faulknerian color and mordant philosophy, and a Mississippi drawl untamed by four decades in New York, Allison is an unquestionably unique figure in modern jazz. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Bill Phelps.