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Geri Allen – Pianist

Submitted by Alison Wilcox, artist, musician, composer and advocate of the kawai piano.


Music is changing.  Sounds are becoming more and more electronic.  But, thankfully, there are people out there who still play organic instruments.  The piano is one of them.  We are featuring a well-known pianist, Geri Allen.


Geri Allen is an internationally known composer and pianist. Since 1982, she has recorded, performed or collaborated with artists as diverse as Ravi Coltrane, Dianne Reeves, Liz Wright, and Simone, in a celebration of the life and music of Nina Simone, Donald Walden, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Bill Cosby, Mal Waldron, Sir Simon Rattle, Lee Konitz, Vernon Reid, Jackie Hillsman and Peter Bernard, JoAnne Akalaitis, Clark Terry, George Shirley, Carrie Mae Weems, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, Carmen Lundy, Lester Bowie’s From the Root To The Source, Kevin Maynor, Meshell Ndegeocello, Howard University’s Afro Blue, Dewey Redman, Jimmy Cobb, Sandra Turner-Barnes, Marcus Belgrave, Betty Carter, Marian McPartland, Roy Brooks, Charlie Haden and Paul Motion, Terri Lynn Carrington, Hal Wilner, Mino Cinelu, Dr. Billy Taylor, Joan Rivers, and Mary Wilson and the Supremes.
Professor Allen has released a number of recordings under her own name. These include: The Nurturer, Eyes in the Back of Your Head, Maroons, Homegrown, The Printmakers, Twenty One, The Gathering, The Life of a Song, and, most recently, the ambitious and critically acclaimed Timeless Portraits and Dreams. A newly released Timeline, Live presents Ms. Allen on piano, Kenny Davis on bass, Kassa Overall on drums, and tap percussionist Maurice Chestnut. This is a rhythmically innovative work and has just been released on Ms. Allen’s own label. Geri Allen is a Motema artist, and the forthcoming Refractions: Flying Toward the Sound, a work for solo piano which she composed during the period of her Guggenheim Fellowship, will be released by Motema in the new year.

Many honors have come Professor Allen’s way. She was recently invited by Ms. Jessye Norman to participate in Honor, A Celebration Of the Legacy Of African Music, held at Carnegie Hall Spring, 2008. She has received the key to the city of Cambridge during Geri Allen Week at Harvard University, and the key to the city of Cleveland. Howard University has honored her with its Benny Golson Award, while Spelman College bestowed its African Classical Music Award on her in 2007. She was the first artist to receive the Lady Of Soul Award in Jazz, and was also the youngest person—and the first woman—to receive the Danish Jazzpar Prize. Professor Allen is a 2008-2009 Guggenheim Fellow for Musical Composition. She is a Detroit native and a graduate of Cass Technical High School, Detroit’s magnet school for music. She is also a graduate of Howard University where she later served as Assistant Professor of Music. During that period, Howard honored her with both its Distinguished Alumni and Distinguished Professor Awards. Professor Allen also holds a master’s degree in ethnomusicology from The University of Pittsburgh, where she studied with Dr. Nathan Davis, Dr. Kwabena Nketia, John Blacking, and Dr. Bell Yung.