Two musical giants have passed: Mose Allison and Claus Ogerman. Actually, Ogerman shuffled off this mortal coil eight months ago, but nobody knew it because the family kept it a secret. Old Man Mose died on Monday, November 15, 2016, at the age of 89.
Mose Allison (1927-2016)
Mose Allison was one-of-a-kind, to put it mildly. Growing up in the backwoods town of Tippo, Mississippi, he would listen to the jukebox in his father’s dry goods store, discovering music from Nat Cole, Ellington, Satchmo, and other greats.
He was also one of my first interviews after I returned from Paris in 1976, couldn’t get a teaching job at local community colleges, and was scuffling as a freelance writer and part-time county lifeguard. I interviewed him in Hermosa Beach, where he had a gig at the Lighthouse. The piece came out in a small short-lived periodical called Hittin’ the Note, and I titled it “Jazz’s Mark Twain.”
Mose Allison sang with a southern drawl, wrote incisive lyrics, and was a good enough pianist to be hired early on by Stan Getz and Zoot Sims. His version of Willie Dixon’s “Seventh Son” has always been my favorite. He wrote classic songs like “Your Mind is On Vacation” (Your Mouth is Working Overtime), “Parchman Farm” (the final stanza, “I’m gonna be here for the rest of my natural life, and all I did was shoot my wife” got him in plenty of trouble). I love his ironic song, “I Don’t Worry About a Thing” (because “nothing’s gonna be alright).
In the early 1960’s, the African-American magazine Jet gave Allison a best new artist award and invited him to Los Angeles for the ceremony. They thought he was black. Mose called to tell them that there had been a mistake. His music was also popular in England, and his songs were covered by many artists, including Elvis Costello, John Mayall, Georgie Fame, the Yardbirds, the Clash, and the Kinks.
When Mose Allison was awarded an N.E.A. Jazz Master award in 2013, he accepted the honor with his daughter Amy at the piano with him. Here is what he sang:
When I become was, and we become were
Will There be any sign or a trace
of the lovely contour of your face
and will there be someone around
With essentially my kind of sound?
Claus Ogerman (1930-2016)
Claus Ogerman was for many artists an arranger’s arranger, and much like Gil Evans, he was a devoted modernist. Marc Meyers wrote in Jazzwax, “his delicate string orchestrations still sound like sheer, luxurious curtains blowing in a gentle breeze…his scores…slowly envelope singers and instrumentalists.” Aptly stated.
Ogerman began his career in Germany in 1952, then moved to New York City in 1959 at the invitation of Stan Getz and promptly got work. He was a quick read and a superb arranger and conductor. He worked with Quincy Jones on Leslie Gore’s top 40 hit, “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To,” arranged Frank Sinatra’s album with Jobim, and introduced saxophonist Mike Brecker in the 1974 album Gate of Dreams. At Creed Taylor’s CTI label, Ogerman arranged albums by Freddie Hubbard, George Benson’s Breezin‘, and other big sellers. Later Ogerman worked with Diana Krall on her album The Look of Love. I love his beautiful work on Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez’ 2008 album, Across the Crystal Sea.
Rhythm Planet Playlist for 11/18/16:
- Mose Allison / “The Seventh Son” / Mose Allison Sings / Prestige
- Mose Allison / “If You Live” / Greatest Hits / Prestige/Fantasy Records
- Mose Allison / “I Don’t Worry About A Thing” / Best of Mose Allison / Atlantic Records
- Mose Allison / “Parchman Farm” / Greatest Hits / Prestige/Fantasy Records
- Mose Allison / “Your Mind Is On Vacation” / Best of Mose Allison / Atlantic Records
- Claus Ogerman / “Caprice” / Gate of Dreams / Warner Records
- Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim / “Baubles, Bangles & Beads” / Sinatra & Jobim / Reprise
- Joao Gilberto / “Estate” / Amoroso-Brasil / Warner Bros.
- Diana Krall / “I Should Care” / Claus Ogerman-A Man and His Music / Verve
- Danilo Perez and Claus Ogerman / “Rays and Shadows” / Across the Crystal Sea / Emarcy