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This week’s jazz picks: Mose Allison, Moore by Four, and the return of Soul Café

Last Sunday’s benefit at the Artists’ Quarter for guitarist/composer Dean Magraw, who recently underwent a bone marrow transplant, was an all-day jazz fest/love fest.

Last Sunday’s benefit at the Artists’ Quarter for guitarist/composer Dean Magraw, who recently underwent a bone marrow transplant, was an all-day jazz fest/love fest. One of the highlights was a rare AQ appearance by vocalist Prudence Johnson, who sang with guitarist Tim Sparks (Johnson and Sparks were two-thirds of Rio Nido, back in the day), bassist Chris Bates and drummer Jay Epstein.

“I had an idea to deconstruct songs by poets who happen to write music — Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen,” Johnson explained. “Dean had to bow out, and it turns out Sparks plays a lot of Waits.” Plus Bates and Epstein have played with Sparks, at a memorable Dakota late-night show in July.

All four performed at the Riverfront Jazz Festival in Stevens Point, Wis., in September. Sunday’s set was an abbreviated version of that show, with just enough songs to make me want more: Tom Waits’ “Get Behind the Mule,” Joni Mitchell’s seriously spooky “The Dark Ladder,” Waits’ “Hold On,” Mose Allison’s “I Don’t Worry About a Thing.”

Lest you suspect Allison’s tune is an optimistic take on life, here’s more from the lyric:

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I don’t worry about a thing
’Cause I know nothing’s gonna be all right …

Don’t waste your time trying to
Be a go getter
Things will get worse before they
Get any better.

Allison is one of a kind. Lucky for us, he likes the AQ enough to make it part of his annual touring circuit. He tops the list of this week’s picks. MinnPost spoke with Allison last October; take a look if you want a little background.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday: Mose Allison. Pianist, composer, songwriter, vocalist, legend. “The William Faulkner of jazz.” Mose is the man, and if you haven’t yet heard him live, do yourself a big favor. Friday-Sunday, Oct. 16-18 (8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Sunday), Artists’ Quarter ($20).

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday: Moore by Four Returns to Ruby’s. Founded by pianist/composer Sanford Moore in 1986, launched at Ruby’s Cabaret in the Minneapolis Warehouse District, the vocal quartet Moore by Four is a Twin Cities treasure. Members Yolande Bruce, Ginger Commodore, Connie Evingson, and Dennis Spears have all gone on to solo careers, so they don’t perform together as often as they used to. When they do, it’s worth going out for. Impresario Mary Kelley Leer, who ran the original Ruby’s, has revived the beloved venue, this time at the Lab Theater, formerly the Guthrie Laboratory Theater. Moore by Four performs the program that first made them famous: “The Cotton Club Revue,” with songs by Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, George Gershwin, and more. The show opened on Thursday, Oct. 8; this is the final weekend. Friday-Sunday, Oct. 16-18 (8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday), Ruby’s @ The Lab, 700 North First Street ($27.50/$25).

Sunday: Soul Café. On hiatus since March, Soul Café returns with its signature nourishing blend of poetry and jazz. Spend an hour in the Art Gallery at Hennepin Avenue Church and you’ll be ready for whatever the week brings, even if it’s more snow. Steve Blons is group leader and guitarist (and co-host with Michelle Jansen of KBEM’s “Jazz and the Spirit”); Laura Caviani plays piano; Brad Holden saxophone. Sunday, October 18, 7 p.m., Hennepin Avenue Church (I-94 at the Lyndale exit) ($10 requested donation).

Pamela Espeland keeps a Twin Cities live jazz calendar  and blogs about jazz at Bebopified. She tweets about jazz on Twitter.