For as many genres of music that exist, we have as many favorite musicians. When it comes to jazz music there is only one musician that over takes my record player and my record collection, his name is Mose Allison, The Sage of Tippo. One of my favorite vinyl records released from him is Seventh Son. I recently went to Mose Allisons website and was disappointed to read the following on his tour page: “After 65 years of touring Mose Allison has retired from live performance.” I feel honored to have seen one of my favorite jazz/ delta blues musicians perform twice in my life, one of which was the most epic performance I have ever seen.
In the summer of 2007 I attended the Syracuse Jazz Festival with a friend who shared a mutual love for jazz and Mose Allison. It was a free two day event and that day the headliners were Dave Brubeck, Mose Allison, and Toots Thielemans. I had never seen any of them perform and was pretty excited. By the time we arrived, Toots was taking the stage and his chromatic harmonica skills blew me away. Mose was next. We found a great spot to watch the show and after waiting for thirty minutes for the stage crew to change the equipment, Mose took to the stage. He performed with a guitarist, bassist, and drummer. He was amazing and played many songs I knew. It was around 6pm and from behind the stage, dark clouds were rolling overhead and they were looking pretty ominous. It looked like a scene from a horror film and demons were coming to take over the earth. A perfectly sunny day was about to disappear in an instant. Mose and the bands backs were to the clouds. The winds began to pick up then small rain drops began to splash. The inevitable was about to happen. The speakers shut off and the lights flicked on and off a few times settling at off as the rains began to fly harder from the side. The winds picked up so much I thought we were in the movie Twister. The entire audience took off and headed for shelter, and their cars. My friend had went to the car already. I didn’t want to miss Mose’s performance and decided to stay while he was still playing. The rain did not let up and hell was upon us. I took shelter under the sound engineer’s tent. They gave me the look as if to say, “Get the heck out of here,” but let me hang back because of the weather. This had all happened in a short few minutes, but Mose did not stop playing. We watched the rest of the band, who were all playing electric instruments and metal things, looking at each other probably wondering why the heck they were still playing. Mose, despite getting drenched and pelted from all angles with razor sharp rain drops, kept on playing his piano and singing into a microphone with power. It was unbelievable to watch. His clothes became heavy with water. All I could hear from my vantage point were the drums and faint piano, without electric amplification, all else was lost. As fast as the hell storm came rolling over, it began to pass. The rain slowed and breaks of sun began to drop rays on the stage. People began to break from their hiding places and venture back out to the stage, the lights came on, and after about 6 songs, the amplification burst back on in the middle of the song, seventh son. The crowd that had assembled exploded cheers for Mose and the band. Any smart stage manager would have dragged a performer off the stage for liability reasons, but Mose kept playing like Eminen kept rapping a capella-style at the end of 8 Mile when they cut off his music. His true delta bluesman color showed that day and I will always remember watching that old jazzmen punch a hell storm in the face.
His music has been covered by everyone from the Clash to Elvis Costello and Van Morrison to the Who. Mose is known as the Sage of Tippo, Mississippi where he is from. He is a wise grandfather to musicians all over the world. I play his music a lot in the house and the only fitting pairing for Mose is Burgundy wines, old Burgundy wines from France.
Burgundies can range in price from affordable to astronomical, and be very daunting to tackle, but ask any sommelier or wine geek and they will tell you their favorite wines are burgundies. They can be some of the most frustrating wines to confront in today’s market for a lot of reasons, but when you have a good one, you know why they are so coveted and why new world pinot noir and chardonnay producers try to emulate the wines from Burgundy. I will not pair my Mose Allison vinyls with a specific burgundy, because frankly, I am not tied down to just one favorite pairing. Some of the easier and more affordable ones on the market are Louis Jadot and Louis Latour. Emosin and Tollot-Beaut are some of my personal favorites and all age extremely well. I have always compared burgundies to wise grandparents. They work hard, have deep roots, and never disappoint. I could write a whole thesis on the beautiful wine region of Burgundy, France, but I will spare you and make the simple suggestion of visiting your local wine shop and having a conversation with your wine professional about Burgundy and their selections.
From one wise old sage to another, Mose Allison and the region of Burgundy will tell you some of the greatest stories you’ve ever heard. Their music and wine sounds simple, but in its raw form is more complicated than any of its followers. Enjoy this pairing and the company of these two greats.