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A couple of things come to mind when listening to this recording. One is that all three of the principals were linked professionally to Miles Davis. The rhythm section of Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette were part of Miles' monumental Bitches Brew sessions. Geri Allen's connection is a bit more out of the way in that she was active in a Miles tribute disc called Endless Miles . Like the Art Pepper collaborations with Davis rhythm sections of the middle 1950s, Geri Allen's new release, The Life of a Song , should be subtitled Geri Allen Meets the Rhythm Section.
The second thing is that this disc owes much to the liberation of the rhythm section that took place under Miles Davis during the lifetime of his second great quintet. But I stop short of equating Ms. Allen with two prominent Miles Davis pianists Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock. This trio swings outside of the lines in the way one would expect. Jack DeJohnette is a master of the cymbals. He illustrates his mastery in abundance on every selection. Dave Holland proves why his profile is high in the jazz world with his rock solid support and his sensible and intelligent soloing. Ms. Allen's playing allows the trio's efforts to exist in that wonderful suspended animation that all great jazz has in common.
The Life of a Song is Geri Allen's first new release in six years. A native of Detroit, Miss Allen comes from the same fertile jazz soil that gave birth to the Jones Brothers (Hank, Thad, and Elvin), Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Garrett, and James Carter as well as many others. Collected here are eight original compositions and three standards. Allen directs each piece carefully, giving them the personal attention and touch of a master. Her original compositions are characterized by a percussive texture with a baroque sensibility. She translates this sensibility to the three standards. "Lush Life" is transformed into a post bop ballad heaven. Bud Powell's "Dance of the Infidels" retains all of its bebop character as Allen infuses it with modern rhythms and time changes. Mal Waldron's superb "Soul Eyes" ends the disc with a three horn front, providing an airy listening experience as the earthy melody is partially deconstructed to reveal the song's inner harmonic beauty. The Life of a Song is a strong effort by a collaboration of strong musicians.
Track Listing: 1. LWB's House (The Remix); 2. Mounts And Mountains; 3. Lush Life; 4. In
Appreciation: A Celebration Song; 5. The Experimental Movement; 6. Holdin' Court; 7.
Dance Of The Infidels; 8. Unconditional Love; 9. The Life Of A Song; 10. Black
Bottom; 11. Soul Eyes.
Personnel: Geri Allen Piano; Dave Holland Bass; Jack Dejohnette Drums; Marcus Belgrave
Flugelhorn; Dwight Andrews Saxophone; Clifton Anderson Trombone
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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