Geri Allen – Grand River Crossings ★★★★

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Motéma Music |
Geri Allen (p), Marcus Belgrave (t) and David McMurray (sax). Rec. date not stated

If Flying Toward The Sound (2010) paid homage to Cecil Taylor, McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock, and A Child Is Born (2011) honoured the influence of family and spirituality, this beautiful final chapter in Geri Allen’s trilogy of solo piano recordings for Motéma – subtitled Motown and Motor City Inspirations – sees her celebrate her home town of Detroit and its iconic label. With a track list that includes beautifully detailed reworkings of ‘Stoned Love’ and ‘Inner City Blues’, what’s fascinating about the album as a whole is how the settings range from the almost reverential to the almost abstract. With Allen’s varicoloured pianism vibrating between the familiar and the unfamiliar in a really exciting way, at times you really have to do close listening to hear the original. ‘Wanna Be Startin Somethin’ provides the dazzling opener, a joyous dance of interweaving lines, and there are equally memorable arrangements of ‘Tears of a Clown’ and a heartbreaking ‘Save the Children’. Fellow Detroit musicians Marcus Belgrave (trumpet), Allen’s mentor at the Jazz Development Workshop who recorded with the pianist on her 2002 album The Detroit Experiment, and David McMurray (sax) guest on four of the album’s 15 tracks.

Peter Quinn