Geri Allen

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Geri Allen, July 2008

Geri Antoinette Allen (born June 12, 1957 in Detroit , Michigan ; † June 27, 2017 in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania ) was an American jazz pianist , composer , ethnomusicologist and university teacher . Stylistically, she was headstrong and also very versatile: they "could delicately touching and playing elegant, but there was also the other Geri Allen, the poignant, often opposing rhythms" and impressive grooves created

Live and act

Geri Allen received piano lessons from the age of seven. She attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit , where she was a student of Marcus Belgrave . She made her first attempts at jazz in the Detroit Jazz Development Workshop and in the Nation: Afrikan Liberation Arts Ensemble around Haki R. Madhubuti . Until 1979 she studied at Howard University in Washington, DC , where she also taught afterwards; then she took lessons from Kenny Barron in New York . This was followed by a master’s degree in ethnomusicology at the University of Pittsburgh until 1982 , before Allen settled in New York after a tour with Mary Wilson .

In New York she worked with Oliver Lake , Joseph Jarman, and Lester Bowie ; her debut album was made in 1983. She showed more avant-garde elements of her playing in her early album The Printmakers in 1984, accompanied by Anthony Cox and Andrew Cyrille . As a member of the musician collective M-Base , she played with Steve Coleman's band Five Elements, participated in his first three albums in 1985/86 and toured Europe with them in the late 80s. During this time he also worked with Oliver Lake ( Expandable Language , 1984), David Friedman (Shades of Change) , Frank Lowe ( Decision in Paradise , 1985) and Franco Ambrosetti ( Movies and Movies Too , 1986 and '88).

Richard Cook and Brian Morton rated Allen as a tech-savvy pianist whose style combines the most diverse elements of jazz piano history, such as Bud Powell , Monk , echoes of Cecil Taylor and lesser known jazz pianists such as Herbie Nichols and Mary Lou Williams . She is also influenced by non-pianists like Eric Dolphy , whose ideas she reflects in her compositions. "The trance-like, repetitive structures and minimal embellishments of gospel" were clearly perceptible in their playing, at the same time "also a love for the big, bulky loners in piano jazz."

In the second half of the 1980s she worked with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian ; the albums Etudes on Soul Note and Segments on the DIW label were created. In 1990 the trio performed at the New York Club Village Vanguard . With the albums The Nurturer (1990) and Maroons (1992) Geri Allen deepened her interest in compositions and arranged structures in an expanded line-up, with musicians such as Marcus Belgrave and Kenny Garrett . The much praised result of this development was the Verve album The Gathering from 1998, u. a. with Wallace Roney , Robin Eubanks , Vernon Reid , Buster Williams , Lenny White , Mino Cinelu and multi-instrumentalist Dwight Andrews .

Allen also worked with musicians such as Betty Carter (on the live albums The Music Never Stops (1992) and Feed the Fire , 1994), Bobby Hutcherson , Greg Osby , Gary Thomas , Dewey Redman , James Newton , Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette together and has worked on more than a hundred albums, including two CDs by Ornette Coleman ; their regular partners included a. the musicians Arthur Blythe , Julius Hemphill , Lester Bowie and Charles Lloyd . In the film Kansas City by Robert Altman , she played the role of Mary Lou Williams .

Geri Allen has taught as visiting professor at Howard University; she was an associate professor of jazz piano and improvisation at the University of Michigan School of Music, Dance & Theater . In 2013 she moved to the University of Pittsburgh , where she succeeded Nathan Davis as head of the jazz department.

She died in 2017 at the age of 60 from complications from cancer.

Honourings and prices

In the 1993 and 1994 Down-Beat Critic's Poll, Allen was particularly recognized as a talent that deserves more attention. She was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award from Howard University, the SESAE Special Achievement Award and the Eubie Blake Award , and in 1996 she was the first woman to receive the prestigious Danish Jazzpar Award .

Geri Allen (2011)

Discographic notes


  • The Art of Jazz and the Creative Process. In: International Jazz Archives Journal. 1, 3, 1995, pp. 89ff.


Web links


  1. Giovanni Russonello: Geri Allen, pianist Who Reconciled Jazz's Far-Flung Styles, this at 60 in The New York Times
  2. On the death of Geri Allen (rbf)
  3. a b Jan Künemund On the death of Geri Allen: With stubbornness and groove , Der Spiegel , June 28, 2017
  4. Quoted from Cook & Morton, p. 27.
  5. Cook and Morton named The Gathering Allen's most satisfying work and awarded it the highest grade in the Penguin Guide to Jazz .