It has been reported that American jazz pianist and songwriter Mose Allison died today at age 89. I've been a considerable fan of Allison's one-of-a-kind music, but to be honest I didn't even realize he was still alive. The news of his death seems like a perfect opportunity to share some of his work, a conversational brand of white beatnik jazz that both revealed his rural Mississippi roots and sounded totally urbane. This is one of my favorites:

Allison is probably best known to mainstream audiences for writing "Young Man Blues," which the Who turned into a jet-engine roar on their 1970 album Live at Leeds. Here's a video from around that time period. It's uncanny to me how you can still hear Allison's unique inflection within the Who's meaty, beaty assault.

Allison was relatively unique in the jazz world in that he wrote and vocalized his songs (rather than keeping them purely instrumental, or having other singers perform them), and as such the music business had difficulty pigeonholing him, trying him out first as a pop singer and later as a blues artist. Neither really fit; Allison's left-field songs were jazzy and cool and authentically American. Here's a song of his that feels especially appropriate today. RIP, Mose. You were cool as hell.

I can't believe the things I'm seeing
I wonder 'bout some things I've heard
Everybody's crying mercy
When they don't know the meaning of the word

A bad enough situation, it's sure enough getting worse
Everybody's crying justice just as long as it's business first

Toe to toe
Touch and go
Give a cheer
Get your souvenir

People running 'round in circles, don't know what they're headed for
Everybody's crying peace on Earth just as soon as we win this war

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Straight ahead
Knock 'em dead
Pack your kit
Choose your hypocrite

Well you don't have to go to off Broadway
To see something plain absurd
Everybody's crying mercy
When they don't know the meaning of the word

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