Geri Allen
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Detroit-born pianist Geri Allen (1957), a graduate in ethnomusicology, moved to New York in 1982. She collaborated with Oliver Lake (1984-87) and with Steve Coleman (1986-88), and joined the M-Base collective. Allen's debut album, The Printmakers (february 1984), in a trio with bassist Anthony Cox and percussionist Andrew Cyrille, was an original offering of dissonant and free jazz. But subsequent recordings moved rapidly towards the lightweight and superficial end of the spectrum: the solo piano vignettes of Home Grown (january 1985), the soul-jazz ballads of Open On All Sides In the Middle (december 1986), the piano-bass-drums trio of Twylight (1989), with sprinkles of synthesizer and ethnic percussion, perhaps the best of this phase, entirely composed by her, In The Year of the Dragon (march 1989), with No More Mr Nice Guy, and Segments (august 1989), both for a superb trio with bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian but almost none of the material was hers. She preferred to fragment her albums into short pieces rather than attempt the epic-length suite or jam.

Her mature phase began with The Nurturer (january 1990), featuring Marcus Belgrave on trumpet and flugelhorn, Kenny Garrett on alto saxophone, bass and two percussionists, and especially Maroons (february 1992) with one or more trumpet, bass and drums. She wrote almost all the compositions, but rarely pushed the lengthy of a piece beyond five minutes. Notable exceptions on the latter were Laila's House and Mad Money.

She lapsed into the routine again with Twenty One (march 1994), mostly devoted to standards, with Ron Carter on bass and Tony William on drums. But then Eyes In The Back Of Your Head (march 1996) was her more austere album since the debut, a collection of solos, two piano-trumpet-percussion trios (e.g., MOPE), two duets with trumpet (e.g., Windows To The Soul), two duets with percussion, and two duets with Ornette Coleman on alto (Vertical Flowing, The Eyes Have It). Some Aspects of Water (march 1996) contained two of her longest compositions ever: the ten-minute Skin for a piano-bass-drums trio, and the 19-minute Some Aspects of Water for nonet. Gathering (february 1998) was another collection of (Allen-composed) atmospheric chamber-jazz pieces for various combinations of instruments, but faithful to a radio-friendly ideology that ran the gamut from new-age music to jazz-rock.

After a six-year hiatus, Allen led a more serious trio with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette on The Life Of A Song (january 2004), although the material was still rather lightweight, with few notable exceptions (Mounts And Mountains, The Experimental Movement).

Refractions, Flying Toward The Sound (december 2008) was a piano album.

The Trio 3's At This Time (august 2008) pared Allen with Oliver Lake (alto sax & flute), and the rhythm section of Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille.

Timeline Live (2010), her first «live studio» recording, including the 17-minute The Western Wall/Soul Eyes and McCoy Tyner's Four By Five.

Celebrating Mary Lou Williams (august 2010) documents a live performance by Geri Allen with Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille and Oliver Lake.

A Child Is Born (april 2011) is a solo album of celesta, clavinet, piano, electric piano and organ.

Grand River Crossings - Motown & Motor City Inspirations (august 2012)

Geri Allen died in June 2017 of lung cancer at the age of 60.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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