Country Blues: Mose Allison - "Creek Bank"

Mose Allison • Creek Bank • 1958 • Prestige Records
Recorded August 15, 1958 at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ

The Selections:

The Tracks:

A1. The Seventh Son
A2. If I Didn't Care
A3. Cabin In The Sky
A4. If You Live
A5. Yardbird Suite
B1. Creek Bank
B2. Moon And Cypress
B3. Mule
B4. Dinner On The Ground
B5. Prelude To A Kiss

The Players:

Mose Allison - Piano, Vocals
Addison Farmer - Bass
Ronnie Free - Drums

The Record:

While in the process of writing this post the news hit the wire that Mose Allison had passed away on November 15th at the age of 89. He will be fondly remembered by his many fans and his music will continue to bring great pleasure to all those who hear it.

The one constant you will hear about Mose Allison is that his music has a "category" problem. Does he play the blues, or jazz, or is he merely a unique vocal interpreter of the country blues? Well, the answer is a simple one: his music embodies all of those qualities and more, often at the same time. This categorization issue doesn't seem to be a problem in other forms of popular music: David Bowie or Prince are simply referred to as artistic chameleons whose musical genius knew no boundaries, but in jazz we tend to want our artists to fit in nice little packages. All of us jazz fans are guilty in some form or another of ignoring certain corners of the jazz world because they don't fit into our preconceived notions of what the music should be. Allison, certainly not due to any lack of talent, is often pigeonholed into one genre or another, because it makes it easier for us as critical listeners to try and understand exactly what he was trying to accomplish to fulfill his musical vision.

Mose Allison

Creek Bank, his fourth album, shows off exactly what Allison has to offer the enlightened listener. The album contains two of his undisputed vocal classics in "Seventh Son" and "If You Live", but also shows off his impressive modern jazz talents on the piano with his interpretations of Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite" and Duke Ellington's "Prelude To A Kiss". The inclusion of these two songs was no accident, Allison was influenced as much by jazz music as he was by the blues, and by picking tracks by Parker and Ellington he was certainly flaunting his jazz credentials to any doubters out there. Just as good as those two classic instrumental tunes is the title track, an Allison original, where all members of the trio get some room to solo on a nice piece of modern jazz (the drummer Ronnie Free is a bit of mystery, but Addison Farmer shines on the bass, as he did on many late 1950s jazz recordings). Anyone paying attention in the mid-1950s should have known Allison was more than qualified to succeed at modern jazz, as he began his jazz career playing with the likes of Bob Brookmeyer, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan.

I'm a big fan of Allison's Prestige LPs, with their mix of piano and vocal tracks they provide the perfect balance to showcase his talents. I have a couple of compilation LPs with only vocal tracks, but sometimes those can be too much of a good thing. Albums like Creek Bank just flow so well from track to track, and feel to me like a nice recreation of what it would have been like to see the Mose Allison Trio performing live in a small jazz club in 1958. And yet, for whatever reason, Creek Bank in it's original incarnation doesn't seem to get much respect. There's no listing for the album on Mose Allison's discography on AllMusic, and an Amazon search for it brings up a compilation album under the same name that combines Creek Bank with his other 1958 recording Young Man Mose. It's hardly the first time that a great work by a jazz artist has flown under the radar, but I wouldn't have expected it with an important early release by Allison on a label as respected as Prestige. 

The Vinyl:

The Details: An original 1958 mono pressing on the gorgeous yellow and black "fireworks" label. By this point in 1958 these labels had the "203 South Washington Ave., Bergenfield, N.J." address along the top. As far as I can tell the only other pressing of this LP was a late-1960s repress on the uninspired blue "trident" label. It was available again in the early 1970's as part of the aforementioned compilation album (this time a double-LP) also entitled Creek Bank.


The Price: $15 at a local shop, which was a flat out no-brainer in my book. A great Mose Allison LP in it's original mono Prestige incarnation? Yes, please. Cover rates a VG+, if not a little better, and the vinyl (while a bit rough in spots) lands firmly in the VG+ range.

The Sound: Great deep vintage sound, with excellent separation of the trio's musical contributions. This one was engineered by Rudy Van Gelder, so you know it's gonna be good, and even with some excess surface noise it still shows off why folks love these original early Prestige pressings.

Final Thoughts:

I'm slightly biased in my praise for Creek Bank, I've been a big fan of Allison for years and the LP has "If You Live" which may be my single favorite song in his long discography. If you're unfamiliar with his work, I'd definitely start with any of his Prestige sessions, as they contain his most lasting work. There was a time when Allison's compilation LPs were easily found in $1 flea market vinyl bins, and while that's no longer the case you can still find his albums (original or otherwise) for a more than reasonable price.