When Mose Allison holds a note, it's a good thing he doesn't ask for ransom: The moment is fleeting and the range is narrow. Yet Allison has parlayed these limited talents into a 25-year career that is marked by consistency if not brilliance.
Allison, who closes a two-part engagement at the Cellar Door tonight, is a unique blues stylist, vocally and as a pianist. He seems to have stopped being influenced with the end of the Eisenhower presidency. All his musical tangents appeared before 1960: The Delta blues of Tampa Red, the transitional bop of Bud Powell and Thelonius Monk and the classic jazz fills of Fats Waller.
Allison's lyrics reflect his existential philosophy. His own compositions -- "Lost Mind," "Everybody's Cryin' Mercy," and "Wild Man on the Loose" -- are quirky and full of acerbic asides and pungent wit.The tunes that Allison borrows -- Jesse Fuller's "Fool's Paradise," Willie Dixon's "I Love the Life I Live," and even the dirge-like interpretation of the normally ebullient "You Are My Sunshine" -- become very much his own.
A long set of Allison is like a tennis match point that is forever deuce. The game is exciting and the players (especially drummer Steve Haas) are sharp, but after an hour one starts looking for the tie-breaker.