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Geri Allen: Timeless Portraits and Dreams

Woodrow Wilkins By

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There's a certain purity, perhaps innocence, about jazz that's played without the bells and whistles of modern technology and untainted by commercial trappings. When that purity is combined with superb songwriting, you have the makings of a recording that will never sound old. So it is with Timeless Portraits and Dreams.

A native of Detroit, Geri Allen began taking piano lessons at age eleven. She graduated from Howard University with a degree in jazz studies, and she later earned a master's degree in ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh. Her professional career has included professorships in music at Howard and the University of Michigan; she has earned several awards. As a recording artist, she has collaborated with Mino Cinelu, Mary Wilson and the Supremes, Tony Williams, Ron Carter and Betty Carter, among others.

On Timeless Portraits and Dreams, Allen delivers nearly an hour's worth of musical elegance. The stage is set on the opening tracks, "Oh Freedom and "Melchezedik, two originals that feature Allen on solo piano and then joined by her rhythm section of bassist Ron Carter and drummer Jimmy Cobb. On the latter piece, Carter stretches out. Allen is backed by the Atlanta Jazz Chorus on "Well Done, which features guest vocalist Carmen Lundy. Donald Walden introduces "I Have a Dream with a soft tenor sax solo. George Shirley, the first African-American tenor to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, sings lead on this tribute to the famous speech of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., accompanied by the Atlanta Jazz Chorus.

Trumpeter Wallace Roney takes the lead on "In Real Time, an upbeat original penned by Allen and Roney. Allen's solo in the middle is one of the finer points of the album, aided by Carter's bass. Though he plays in the background for much of the album, Cobb steps up with a drum solo on the cover of Charlie Parker's "Ah-Leu-Cha.

Throughout Timeless Portraits and Dreams, Allen's piano and Carter's bass keep the listener engaged. Cobb's drum work is subtle but effective. Lundy, Walden, Roney, Shirley and the Atlanta Jazz Chorus supplement the trio with great results. The collection includes a bonus CD single, "Lift Every Voice and Sing, which features Shirley and the Atlanta Jazz Chorus. Together, they form a gallery of emotions, thought-provoking messages and good jazz.

Track Listing: Oh Freedom; Melchezedik; Portraits and Dreams; Well Done; La Strada; I Have a Dream; Nearly; In Real Time; Embraceable You; Ah-Leu-Cha; Just for a Thrill; Our Lady (for Billie Holiday); Timeless Portraits and Dreams; Portraits and Dreams (reprise)

Personnel: Geri Allen, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Jimmy Cobb, drums; Carmen Lundy, vocals; Wallace Roney, trumpet; George Shirley, vocals; Donald Walden, tenor saxophone; Atlanta Jazz Chorus, directed by Dwight Andrews.

Title: Timeless Portraits And Dreams | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Telarc Records

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