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Geri Allen Has Died


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Somewhere I have a CDR (audience recording that I acquired from gosh only knows where, as I honestly can't remember)... ...of just Geri and Wallace playing as a duo -- interpolating nearly the entirety of Birth of the Cool album -- from a performance at a Museum (iirc), some 20(?) years ago, give or take.  Will have to dig it out, as a recalling it having been some really inspired and very creative playing by both of them.  And "interpolating" is really the best word I could use to describe it, as it was really quite a free-form (and sometimes very "free-leaning") performance, iirc.


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Devastated , she was one of my faves among the current crop , saw her almost every time she came here, the most memorable gigs were once as she was working with Charles Looyd in his quartet, which is among my greatest concert I ever witnessed at the old Spectrum and another highlight  was when she played wiith Esperanza Spalding and Terri Lynn Carrington as part of the Wayne Shorter anniversary bash a few years ago.

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I offered this on Facebook:

I'm heartbroken over the tragic death from cancer of Detroit native Geri Allen, a profound and influential pianist, composer and conceptualist. She was only 60. 

Her passing is awful news not only for her family, friends and the wider jazz community, but also for Detroit, where she was revered as a contemporary embodiment of the city's rich jazz legacy and a musician who took extraordinary pride in her local roots. A graduate of Cass Tech — the same high school that produced Gerald Wilson, Paul Chambers, Donald Byrd, Ron Carter and others — she was one of the first and most important young musicians to come up under the wing of the late trumpeter and legendary mentor Marcus Belgrave. 

When she began to get famous, she championed Detroit in interviews, talked up Belgrave's influence and used Detroit musicians on some of her early recordings. Geri drew strength and inspiration from her hometown during her entire career, and just last year took on the role of artistic director of the Carr Center, a downtown Detroit arts organization that primarily champions African-American culture and has a strong arts education program. Geri saw her appointment as coming full circle, a way she could give back to the community that had nurtured her. It gave Detroiters one more reason to love her — not that anyone here needed another reason.

The physical body dies, but the music and spirit do not.  This poem by the late Michael Harper -- an African-American poet whose work I bet Geri knew -- gives comfort.

"The Essential Tree"

Greatness in life is in spending
it for something that will outlast life,
and be life renewed in other lives:
the death of death
is illusory;
the death of life
an enigma.

-- Michael Harper

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Extremely sad news to hear. I thought she was a wonderful musician. I was lucky enough to see her play with Tom Bancroft's Orchestra Interrupto ( broadcast on Jazz on 3). I'm truly shocked by this. My thoughts to her family and friends ,RIP.

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