Perhaps more than any other performer today, Mose Allison has cultivated a convincing hybrid of earthy blues and sophisticated jazz feeling. His late set at Charlie's last night opened with as down-in-the-dirt an instrumental as you're likely to hear this side of the tracks.
Yet it incorporated an Errol Garner kind of rocking-chair beat and right-hand runs that are part and parcel of any bop pianist's equipment. And it rumbled along like a slow freight train out of South Chicago. Bassist Steve Novosel walked steadily alongside, and drummer Harold Mann's sticks kept a ride beat going on the big cymbal while accenting it with rim shots.
A second offering, also without voice, picked up considerable speed, but midway subsided into a half tempo that allowed extended bass and drum reponses to the leader's piano.
"I Ain't Got Nothing but the Blues," "Easy Street" and "Do Nothing 'Til You Hear From Me" displayed the perfect wedding of Allison's southern inflections with his blues-drenched fingers. Here again, one was conscious of down-home gospel mixing company with the higher harmonies and rhythmic subtleties of modern jazz.
"Jail Bait" went one better than this duality and grafted on a tongue-in-cheek lyric as wry and cynical as any punk rocker's theme song.
The trio stays through Sunday.