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Geri Allen: The Life of a Song

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It's great to hear Geri Allen cut loose and play with abandon on this mostly trio effort (Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes has trumpet, sax, and trombone briefly added). Hailing from Detroit and admittedly influenced by the Motown sound and feel, Allen plays with a refreshingly honest direction and immediacy. This particular trio, with Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland, has history backing singer Betty Carter on her '93 recording Feed the Fire.

"LWB's House (The Remix) sounds Latin rhythmically, though not harmonically, with a unique polytonal windup music box temperament. When the opening section ends with a single chord, a delicious moment of interaction between bass and piano appears where you might wonder, "bass solo, or piano solo? You soon find out that Allen is leaving space and taking time to build up to a burning piano lead. The windup music box returns and accelerates to end on an unadorned unison.

"Mounts and Mountains begins with a lovely minor folk song quality, bass and piano playing a lot of simple lines together. It doesn't stay in drone mode, but rather unfolds into an interesting, yet sensual form. Allen's compositions are strong throughout, as are the three rearranged standards.

One caveat about the package: it's very attractive, but the liner notes are quite difficult to read. (Perhaps in the name of "grand design, the color scheme of cover is continued into the liner notes, and it doesn't work for reading.) This is Allen's first recording in six years, yet another discouraging message about the state of the recording business. She is a recent recipient of a Meet The Composer grant, so let's hope some smart recording label puts out the next project sooner than six years after it's completed.

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