Terribly So - Howe Gelb

from the album Future Standards (2017)

Once upon a time, I rented a house in Huntington, New York with a group of fun-loving friends.  It was a big, old house on the edge of the village, up the hill, across from the cemetery.  Saturday nights often spilled into Sunday mornings, and the notion of brunch was forever bound to a stiff and spicy Bloody Mary.

The great thing about Huntington is that the Long Island Railroad takes a straight shot into NYC allowing for an easy commute and frequent trains.  This filled the town with well-off financial and media types, but more importantly, its outskirts were home to displaced bohemians who could live more affordably while still being within striking distance of Manhattan.

One iconic musician who lived in the nearby village of Smithtown was Mose Allison.  The highlight of my years in Huntington were the occasional Sundays when he would play jazz piano at a brunch spot a few blocks from our big house.  We would stumble in early with little-or-no sleep and a healthy glow.  I would obstinately insist on getting a table where I could see his fingers on the keys, even if only their reflection off the mirrors.

He was always unassuming when he entered the room, like an old man feeding pigeons in a park.  But when he sat down to play, it was more inspiring than any place of worship.  His lyrics and style set my creativity afire, much as I imagine they had for Van Morrison or Elvis Costello.

When Mose Allison died in 2016, it did not garner the headlines that other - more celebrated - musicians received.  But for me, it was the deepest loss of the year.

All of this comes streaming back as I listen to Future Standards, the new album by Howe Gelb.

A few years ago, I caught him playing a set at a hip Hollywood joint.  I was entranced as his dusty-desert-meets-garage-band vibe confirmed everything I had come to admire through years of unearthing the gems in his vast Giant Sand catalogue.  What struck me most was how the exactness of his keen and clever lyrics reminded me of Mose Allison.

Howe Gelb has since announced that Giant Sand is in his past and he has begun a new phase of his musical journey.  On Future Standards, he is playing piano and writing jazzy songs much in the Mose Allison vane.  Apparently, the little gypsy woman in my brain saw this coming.

The opening track - Terribly So - is a real stand out.  The walking bass line.  The brushed snare.  The light touch of the piano chords.  You feel as though you are in a warm and inviting club, happy to pay the two-drink minimum.

Then comes the first verse, with Howe Gelb singing "Back in Arizona, knee deep in the sand."  I am hooked.  The second part of this duet is softly sung by Lonna Kelly.  She rhymes "Australia" with "Regalia." He reenters rhyming "Constantinople" and "Hopeful."  Somewhere in heaven, Cole Porter coos.

I can't wait to cruise around, listening to this entire CD, undoubtably thinking back to Mose days.

Click Here to watch the official video to Terrible Days.