456

Geri Allen: Solo and Quartet

Joel Roberts By

Sign in to view read count








Geri Allen

Flying Toward The Sound

Motema Music

2010


Geri Allen & Timeline

Live

Motema Music

2010


One of the most accomplished jazz pianists of her generation, Geri Allen has long made music that combines the traditional and the avant-garde, the cerebral and the soulful, the restrained and the raucous. Her impressive resume includes '80s collaborations with Steve Coleman and his M-Base crew, performances with free thinkers like Ornette Coleman, Betty Carter and Charles Lloyd and well-regarded trio outings with rhythm masters like Charlie Haden and Paul Motian.

In recent years, Allen has made a number of recordings focused on some of her diverse influences, including gospel music (Timeless Portraits and Dreams, Telarc, 2006), Jimi Hendrix (Three Pianos for Jimi, Douglas, 2009) and Mary Lou Williams (Zodiac Suite: Revisited, Mary Records, 2005). Her latest release, Flying Toward The Sound, turns to three modern piano giants who have had a profound impact on her work: Cecil Taylor, McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock. But instead of simply revisiting the music of her muses, Allen has composed a "solo piano excursion" inspired by them, combining recognizable elements of each with her own unique and eloquent voicings.

The eight-part suite that comprises most of the album opens with a title section dedicated to Tyner, replete with massive chord rumblings and sumptuous ballad playing. "Red Velvet in Winter," for Hancock, combines rapid-fire runs and funky rhythms in an orchestral soundscape. And "Dancing Mystic Poets at Midnight," for Taylor, takes blues and swing-based improvisations into the stratosphere. The album's centerpiece is the 16-minute "GOD's Ancient Sky," an epic journey that traverses a wide spectrum of musical and spiritual territory. The album closes with a beautiful ballad dedicated to Allen's son that's not part of the main suite. If that's not enough, the enhanced CD includes three excerpts from a film project about the album by the renowned artist and photographer Carrie Mae Weems.

If Flying Toward The Sound looks to the heavens, another new release, Geri Allen and Timeline's Live, highlights the pianist's earthier side. A free-wheeling quartet date recorded at two artsy colleges, Oberlin and Reed, the album is a sort of hiphop-meets-post-bop encounter, notable for the inclusion of "tap percussionist" Maurice Chestnut in the group.

It's clear from the opening number, "Philly Joe," a tune fittingly inspired by the great drummer Philly Joe Jones, that having a dancer in the band is no gimmick. Chestnut is a fully integrated member of the ensemble, adding rich textures and accents and carrying on an electrifying percussive dialogue with drummer Kassa Overall. Both Chestnut and Overall bring hiphop flavor to jazz classics like McCoy Tyner's "Four by Five" and Charlie Parker's "Ah-Leu-Cha" while Allen and bassist Kenny Davis contribute ferocious post-bop playing throughout.

This would be a strong outing were it a standard trio, but the unique addition of the unlikely but very welcome fourth band member makes it an exceptional one.

Tracks and Personnel



Flying Toward the Sound

Tracks: Flying Toward The Sound; Red Velvet In Winter; Dancing Mystic Poets At Midnight; GOD's Ancient Sky; Dancing Mystic Poets At Twylight; Faith Carriers Of Life; Dancing Mystic Poets At Dawn; Flying Toward The Sound (Reprise); Your Pure Self (Mother To Son).

Personnel: Geri Allen: piano.



Live

Tracks: Philly Joe; Four by Five; The Western Wall/Soul Eyes; LWB's House; Embraceable You/Lover Man; Ah Leu Cha; In Appreciation.

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

Shop

More Articles

Read Another Timbre’s Canadian Composers Series Multiple Reviews Another Timbre’s Canadian Composers Series
by John Eyles
Published: April 22, 2017
Read 440 Keys: A Batch of Piano Delights Multiple Reviews 440 Keys: A Batch of Piano Delights
by Geno Thackara
Published: April 21, 2017
Read Anat Cohen's Brazilian Bonanza: Outra Coisa and Rosa Dos Ventos Multiple Reviews Anat Cohen's Brazilian Bonanza: Outra Coisa and Rosa...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 17, 2017
Read Duke Ellington on Storyville Records Multiple Reviews Duke Ellington on Storyville Records
by Chris Mosey
Published: March 20, 2017
Read Lee Morgan On Music Matters Multiple Reviews Lee Morgan On Music Matters
by Greg Simmons
Published: March 6, 2017
Read Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago Multiple Reviews Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "Blue Side of Lonesome: Country Crooners on BGO" Multiple Reviews Blue Side of Lonesome: Country Crooners on BGO
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 23, 2016
Read "Rich Robinson: Solo Reissues" Multiple Reviews Rich Robinson: Solo Reissues
by Doug Collette
Published: April 30, 2016
Read "In Jazz We Trust: On The Politically Inspired Work Of Delfeayo Marsalis and Ted Nash" Multiple Reviews In Jazz We Trust: On The Politically Inspired Work Of...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 2, 2016
Read "NendoDango Records: Reinventing Tradition" Multiple Reviews NendoDango Records: Reinventing Tradition
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 6, 2016
Read "Anat Cohen's Brazilian Bonanza: Outra Coisa and Rosa Dos Ventos" Multiple Reviews Anat Cohen's Brazilian Bonanza: Outra Coisa and Rosa...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 17, 2017
Read "Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago" Multiple Reviews Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 21, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!