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Geri Allen: Geri Allen & Timeline Live (2010)

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Geri Allen: Geri Allen & Timeline Live Remember the time when jazz and dance were simpatico partners? Where swing and tap were intertwined with lively music and sweltering choreography in joints, halls, and clubs. Probably not, but pianist Geri Allen does, as she reflects on those past golden moments and dares to create new ones with Geri Allen & Timeline Live.

Allen's Timeline consists of an extremely versatile group that includes veteran bassist Kenny Davis
Kenny Davis
Kenny Davis
b.1961
bass, acoustic
(who has performed with Cassandra Wilson
Cassandra Wilson
Cassandra Wilson
b.1955
vocalist
, Don Byron
Don Byron
Don Byron
b.1958
clarinet
), the exciting young drummer Kassa Overall, and the icing on this unique quartet, tap dance phenomenon Maurice Chestnut, who brings magical footwork and musicianship in the vein of the late Gregory Hines and contemporaries Savion Glover.

Recorded in 2009 at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and Reed College in Portland, Oregon, this is Allen's first "live" recording in her 25-year career, and is an equally stunning companion to her solo project Flying Toward the Sound (Motema 2010). Whether playing alone or with an ensemble, both releases are distinct glimpses into the pianist's creative potential.

Audibly, the onset of "Philly Joe" demonstrates that this is a bird of a slightly different, commencing with a spirited drum/tap dance sparring duel. Chestnut's metal-plated shoes improvise lightning quick patterns that rival Overall's multicolored traps. From Allen and Davis' grooved vamp to the Harlemesque show-stopping trade between the dual percussionists, the track signals that the event—as approved by the audience's enthusiastic applause—was worth the price of admission.

Allen's repertoire is as fierce as her playing. At one moment the quartet swaggers true with McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
's "Four By Five," while on another, her seventeen-minute "The Western Wall / Soul Eyes," the musicians move with impressionist colors in an eclectic and almost unrecognizable alteration of pianist Mal Waldron
Mal Waldron
Mal Waldron
1926 - 2002
piano
's standard until its classic melody develops. Twist and turns are found, be they the cyclonic patter of shoes and keys on "LWB's House" or the blissful merge of George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin
1898 - 1937
composer/conductor
and Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
vocalist
in "Embraceable You / Loverman." The musicians' instruments, augmented by Chestnut's dancing, evoke images that are imaginative and compelling.

The set's timeline references the continuum of African-American music and culture in Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
's "Ah Leu Cha" and the tributary "In Appreciation," dedicated to the memory of Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks. Both are kinetic. The former swings true to the memory of Bird, as Overall and Chestnut glow like twin supernovae. The latter is an up-tempo soul-blues track that clearly left the audience wanting more.

It is hopeful that Geri Allen and Timeline (and others) will continue to explore the many possibilities that these two kindred art forms can share. Seeing isn't necessary for believing, but the addition of two video performances included on the enhanced CD, warrants further appreciation.


Track Listing: Philly Joe; Four By Five; The Western Wall / Soul Eyes; LWB's House; Embraceable You / Loverman; Ah Leu Cha; In Appreciation.

Personnel: Geri Allen: piano; Kenny Davis: bass; Kassa Overall: drums; Maurice Chestnut: tap percussion.

Record Label: Motema Music

Style: Modern Jazz


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