Remembering Geri Allen, Jazz Pianist

I am deeply saddened by the death of Geri Allen, who passed away yesterday at the age of 60. I suppose there is some comfort to be found in the many albums she left behind of her beautiful music.

I first heard about Geri years ago from Charlie Haden. Charlie was a frequent guest on Morning Becomes Eclectic back when I was host. During his visits, he always turned me on to new music. The 1989 album, Segments, was an early moment in Geri’s recording career when she was the pianist in Haden’s group.

There were other works of hers that I also enjoyed, like when she played on Charles Lloyd’s ECM recordings like Lift Every Voice (2002) and Jumping the Creek (2004). Her Christmas album, A Child is Born, is another favorite.

It was Geri’s harmonic sense and her chord progressions that I loved. She always added a new dimension to the groups that she played with. Her style may not have been flashy, but she could certainly provide plenty of musical torque when the works called for it. Her gorgeous ballads had a way of reaching into your soul.

Geri was born on June 12, 1957 and passed away on June 27, 2017. She graduated from Detroit’s Cass Technical High School, an incubator for many of the great jazz talents. She studied with pianist Kenny Barron and was herself a versatile pianist. She was comfortable in diverse groups, working with everyone from Ornette Coleman and Ron Carter to Tony Williams, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette.

Geri was married to trumpeter Wallace Roney, a brilliant musician who could run the voodoo down à la Miles Davis when he put the mute in his horn.

She will be missed by many.

Geri Allen at the fabulous French summer festival in Marciac during the summer of 2014, playing with bassist Esperanza Spalding and drummer Terri Lynne Carrington.

Listen to her perform on Twenty One, a great album Geri Allen did with Ron Carter and Tony Williams as part of Miles Davis’ famous quintet.

Photo (top) courtesy of Geri Allen.