Mose Allison, 1992. Photo: Mr. Bonzai.
I was just wondering about jazz/blues poet laureate Mose Allison lately, because I’d heard he had stopped performing. Back in 1992, I took Mose to Yamashiro, high in the Hollywood Hills, to interview him for my “Lunching with Bonzai” column in Mix Magazine. What a sweet, soulful cat. Being with him, and seeing his shows, was comfort food for the soul.
What has been the most important contribution to your livelihood? Is it the records?
No, it’s singing the songs and working in clubs that has kept me alive. I never made any money on my records. The only money I made from records was from the mechanical licenses when Van Morrison, The Who or the other artists recorded my songs. According to the record companies, my records have never made money. After 30 years, a few of them may have made it out of the red.
Well, what’s the key to your success?
The key to my success is the fact that I will get to play again this week. [laughs] I like playing, and I like what I’m doing. I’m fortunate. Throughout my career, I’ve run across super-talented people all over the world—and you’ll never hear of them. They were never able to make a living, or they gave it up. I know that there is an element of luck, and I’ve persevered. I’ve kept at it and no matter how sentimental and silly it is, I still keep trying to play well. I keep trying to do a good job. In fact, I’ve got a line that I haven’t used yet—“I’m just a sentimental slob. I even try to do a good job.”
You look like you’re in a trance when you’re playing…
I enjoy it and it’s a challenge if you’re trying to do it like I think it’s supposed to be done. It doesn’t do itself. Sometimes it seems real easy and those are the sets when it’s all worthwhile. Now and then, you start a set out and for no reason that you can figure out—no way you can predict, nothing you can do to ensure that it will happen—everything starts clicking right away. It’s as if it’s happening of its own accord; you have control, but you are not forcing anything. I call it the “Spime.”
Spime is my word for space-time. People are always talking about the Space-Time Continuum, so I figured, look—you need one word for that. That’s the Spime. When you get into the Spime, that’s when you feel the flow of things and there is no effort involved. It just happens.