Geri Allen – 12/06/57 - 26/06/2017

The news that Geri Allen has died from cancer at the age of just 60 is tragic for many reasons. She was in a creatively rich phase of her own impressive career, playing solo, and working closely with Teri Lynne Carrington on her Mosaic Project, which, although women-focused, was important to male and female jazz artists alike. Gender issues were prominent in Allen's life nonetheless. When I met her in the late 1990s she made a point of telling me about the place of women such as Lil Hardin, wife of Louis Armstrong, and Mary Lou Williams in the history of modern music. She saw the necessity of recognising their work.

Born in Pontiac, Michigan, Allen was thoroughly immersed in Detroit's bebop and soul traditions, and one of her first significant gigs as a sidewoman was with Motown legends Mary Wilson and the Supremes. But it soon became clear that Allen was intent on engaging with the entire spectrum of black music, in both art and pop incarnations, and that led her to reflect the influence of Cecil Taylor and Bud Powell as well as Stevie Wonder and Ornette Coleman in her own work. After graduating from Howard University and the University of Pittsburgh Allen settled in New York in the early 1980s, working with avant-garde legends Lester Bowie and Andrew Cyrille, who featured on her auspicious 1984 debut The Printmakers.

Allen became part of two landmark collectives, the Black Rock Coalition and M-BASE, and made a vital appearance on recordings by the latter's founder Steve Coleman and Cassandra Wilson. Yet she really came into her own as a composer and improviser on the albums she cut in the 1990s, such as the politically charged Maroons, Eyes In The Back Of Your Head, featuring Ornette, and the superb The Gathering, a session that reunited her with BRC colleagues like Vernon Reid and struck a perfect balance between funky immediacy and probing introspection.

Allen married trumpeter Wallace Roney, combined her musical activities with motherhood, and also nurtured many young players. She had an all-encompassing approach to piano and keys that enabled her to move from the sweetest of melodicism to the most turbulent abstractions, and this 'Open on all sides in the middle' aesthetic was a notable prelude to the arrival of the likes of Robert Mitchell and Craig Taborn.

– Kevin Le Gendre
– Photo courtesy of Anthony Barboza

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Dan Cartwright Quartet Captivate At The Verdict

Dan Cartwright Quartet Captivate At The …

  Even comparatively hyped new artists can really struggle to fill...

Read More.....
Pharoah Sanders, Denys Baptiste and Alina Bzhezhinska make for cosmic concert for Alice and John Coltrane

Pharoah Sanders, Denys Baptiste and Alin…

Banks of lights sketch out a looming angel presence on...

Read More.....
Matthew Herbert’s (Anti) Brexit Big Band Receive Government Export Funding

Matthew Herbert’s (Anti) Brexit Big Band…

Jazz-influenced experimental musician, composer, conceptualist and now political protester Matthew...

Read More.....
Courtney Pine announced for Jazz Directors series and tour

Courtney Pine announced for Jazz Directo…

Multi-award winning saxophonist and composer Courtney Pine has been announced...

Read More.....
Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet create acoustic alchemy at Ronnie Scott’s

Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet create acoust…

Mark Guiliana is associated with a certain level of jazz-fusion...

Read More.....
Knower drop the knowledge at Scala

Knower drop the knowledge at Scala

"If you have to ask, you don't know by now...

Read More.....
Two Jazz Photography Exhibitions open up

Two Jazz Photography Exhibitions open up

This month sees two jazz photography exhibitions take place –...

Read More.....
Miles Mosley Melts Down The Funk At Islington Assembly Hall

Miles Mosley Melts Down The Funk At Isli…

Miles Mosley has already started making waves in the UK...

Read More.....
Evan Parker And John Russell Usher Forth The Fifth Man At Tampere Jazz Happening

Evan Parker And John Russell Usher Forth…

  A curious sight catches the keenest of eyes on the...

Read More.....
Surman and Warren Bolster Brass On Kings Place Retelling Of Their Traveller's Tale

Surman and Warren Bolster Brass On Kings…

It was during the late 1980s that John Surman (above)...

Read More.....
Pat Metheny Quartet epic and electric at Barbican

Pat Metheny Quartet epic and electric at…

In these turbulent times small things can provide a reassuring...

Read More.....
Watch a Live Stream of Jazz Voice from the EFG London Jazz Festival

Watch a Live Stream of Jazz Voice from t…

This year's 25th anniversary edition of the EFG London Jazz...

Read More.....
Muhal Richard Abrams 19/09/30 – 29/10/17

Muhal Richard Abrams 19/09/30 – 29/10/17

  Though it may have escaped many of the thousands of...

Read More.....
Empirical Among The Imperious At Jazzfest Berlin

Empirical Among The Imperious At Jazzfes…

  For his third and final edition of Jazzfest Berlin, the...

Read More.....
Whirlwind triple bill for Rich Mix and club programme highlights as 25th EFG London Jazz Festival gears up

Whirlwind triple bill for Rich Mix and c…

This year's EFG London Jazz Festival kicks off its milestone...

Read More.....
Tommy Smith goes it alone and together with Brian Kellock

Tommy Smith goes it alone and together w…

Saxophonist Tommy Smith takes his latest project home this month...

Read More.....
Richard Bona brings the boogie and Amok Amor unleash improv anarchy at Enjoy Jazz

Richard Bona brings the boogie and Amok …

Some festivals cram everything into a single weekend, but Enjoy...

Read More.....
Andy Sheppard, Native Dancer and Beats & Pieces line-up for Cambridge Jazz Fest

Andy Sheppard, Native Dancer and Beats …

The third edition of the Brewin Dolphin Cambridge International Jazz...

Read More.....
Christian McBride Big Band, Kamasi Washington and Randy Crawford for Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2018

Christian McBride Big Band, Kamasi Washi…

The first names have been announced for the 22nd edition...

Read More.....
Saxophonist Steve Coleman Sublimely Elemental At Paris Showcase

Saxophonist Steve Coleman Sublimely Elem…

  As Britain attempts what seems like an ungainly improvisation out...

Read More.....
Love Supreme Jazz Festival Rocks Up To The Roundhouse

Love Supreme Jazz Festival Rocks Up To T…

  With this year's annual event having drawn its biggest audience...

Read More.....
Oli Rockberger Rules The Multi-Genre Roost For Sovereign Launch

Oli Rockberger Rules The Multi-Genre Roo…

Whether exploring a gospel-tinged, hymnic solo introduction, which would have...

Read More.....
Atzmon & Orient House Ensemble Pay Tribute To Legends At Pizza Express

Atzmon & Orient House Ensemble Pay T…

Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble will be presenting...

Read More.....
Ronnie Scott’s Instrument Amnesty Returns

Ronnie Scott’s Instrument Amnesty Return…

Following the success of the inaugural Music Instrument Amnesty in...

Read More.....
Instant Composers Pool Orchestra goes Dutch with UK and Ireland dates

Instant Composers Pool Orchestra goes Du…

The unique, internationally renowned Instant Composers Pool Orchestra launches Going...

Read More.....
Martin Taylor and Jazz at The Philharmonic concert to save Swanage Jazz Festival

Martin Taylor and Jazz at The Philharmon…

News that this year's 28th edition of the Swanage Jazz...

Read More.....
Nérija, Dinosaur and Jim Mullen among Parliamentary Jazz Award winners

Nérija, Dinosaur and Jim Mullen among Pa…

The 13th annual Parliamentary Jazz Awards took place for the...

Read More.....
Hugh Masekela withdraws from Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya concert due to ill health

Hugh Masekela withdraws from Abdullah Ib…

Revered South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela has announced that, due...

Read More.....
Dee Byrne's Entropi Radiate Amid Rough And Tumble At Kings Place Album Launch

Dee Byrne's Entropi Radiate Amid Rough A…

  The most striking thing about Moment Frozen, the second release from British...

Read More.....
Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach fire-up new Eastside Jazz Club

Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach fire-up …

The opening night of Birmingham's new Eastside Jazz Club featured...

Read More.....
James Taylor And Soweto Kinch Among Poetic Masters Of Rhythm And Rhyme At 2017 Limerick Fest

James Taylor And Soweto Kinch Among Poet…

  The Limerick Jazz Festival continues to spring surprises, and to...

Read More.....
Dave Liebman/Richie Beirach, Christine & Ingrid Jensen and Mark Turner head to Birmingham’s Eastside Jazz Club

Dave Liebman/Richie Beirach, Christine …

Jazz in the Midlands got a huge boost with the...

Read More.....
Mike Gibbs' Dramatic Big Band Birthday Bash A Blast At Birmingham's CBSO Centre

Mike Gibbs' Dramatic Big Band Birthday B…

  In celebration of his 80th year, the composer and arranger...

Read More.....
Mike Carr – 1937-2017

Mike Carr – 1937-2017

Mike Carr, who died on 22 September aged 79, was...

Read More.....
Jazz FM's Sarah Ward, Chris Philips and Nigel Williams up for radio  awards

Jazz FM's Sarah Ward, Chris Philips and …

Two of Jazz FM's longest serving presenters, DJs Sarah Ward...

Read More.....
Joon Moon Exclusive stream of ‘Moonshine Corner’

Joon Moon Exclusive stream of ‘Moonshine…

This year's EFG London Jazz Festival features a performance by...

Read More.....

Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

The idea of a "jazz" version of a terrible Coldplay song can make one very sad after an enjoyable weekend. The real… https://t.co/fT6Im9VMpJ
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Dan Cartwright Quartet Captivate @verdictjazz https://t.co/HJ53ZayzCb https://t.co/QPJ1T0UgOD
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

Sign up to the Jazzwise monthly E-Newsletter

 

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA