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Veteran musician honored by Sedona Jazz Fest
Randy Cordova
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 25, 2007 12:00 AM

Veteran musician Mose Allison will become the first recipient of the Sedona Jazz on the Rocks Lifetime Achievement Award. And, in typical Allison fashion, the 79-year-old pianist and singer takes it all in stride.

"When my flight is canceled, it doesn't do me any good," Allison says. "I still have to stand in lines like anybody else. Awards don't have any practical significance, but it is nice to hear."

That's Mose for you. The silver-bearded sage has recorded more than 30 albums since the '50s. But he's the first to admit that he has never sold a lot of records. advertisement
Mose Allison - Tucson Photo by  Michael Krueger
"I don't make any money off of my recordings," he says. "The only time I make money is when somebody else records what I've done. And I don't care how other people do my songs, as long as they have the legal stuff straightened out."

Van Morrison recorded a tribute album of Allison songs in 1996. Bonnie Raitt and Georgie Fame also have cut his tunes. The Who recorded his Young Man's Blues in 1970, perhaps his best-known composition.

"Up until then, I'd be getting royalty checks for $5, $10 and so forth," Allison recalls. "Then after that song, I got this check for six or seven grand. I thought it was a mistake."

The original lyric goes "a young man ain't got nothin' in the world these days." Allison revisited the song a decade ago, changing the words to "an old man ain't nothing in the USA."

That may sound bitter, but it's not. The Mississippi-born Allison writes tunes with clever wordplay and sharp, cynical images. But he infuses his performances with such joy, it's hard not to be charmed by his wit.

A sample Allison couplet, from 1994's Certified Senior Citizen: "I'm a certified senior citizen and I don't have to pay full fare/You might ignore me, but doctors adore me."

"He's just authentic," says Teri Mahaney, executive director of Sedona Jazz on the Rocks. "In this day and age of people selling out, Mose doesn't go there. And there's just a stick-to-it-ness about him. He's about to turn 80, and he's still doing his thing."

There are some changes. Although Allison still knocks out about 120 dates a year, he hasn't cut a studio album for a decade.

"I'm completely disappointed in the record business, and the record business is completely disappointed in me," he says in his sauntering drawl. "I don't know whether I'll ever sign another record contract."

No worries, though. The faithful know how good he is, and the rest of the world will just miss out.

"A lot of the time, it's the same people coming to see me, over and over," he says. "Sometimes, I hear, 'Hey, you look better than the last time I saw you.' So who knows, I'll just keep going as long as I can."

 

Reach the reporter at randy.cordova@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-8849.


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