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The Dirty Dog brings together the musicians and guests in a way that creates a lasting impression and desire to come back.
July 7, 2017






It was less than two weeks ago that we heard the shocking news that we lost internationally acclaimed Detroit born, Jazz pianist, Geri Allen, at age 60 due to complications from cancer. The word spread fast with musicians here in Detroit and around the world expressing not only their sadness,  but their deep appreciation for the musical gifts she shared with us during brilliant career.



Guitarist Vernon Reid said on Twitter, that “Geri Allen advanced the position of women in Jazz and creative music for REAL”. He called her an “inspiration for original voices”.



Iconic Detroit bassist, Ralphe Armstrong, told the Detroit Free Press that “Geri Allen was the female Herbie Hancock on the piano”. He said he knew Allen from the age of 14 years old when they were students at Cass Technical High School – a school with a legacy as a hotbed for Jazz talent. “She played with the greatest Jazz artists and she also used the same rhythm section Miles Davis used –  fellow Cass Tech grad and bassist Ron Carter and Tony Williams” – two of the most influential and celebrated musicians in Jazz.  “For that rhythm section to play with you”, says Armstrong, “you’ve got to be one of the elites”.










Ms. Allen had a very prolific career which includes an impressive discography of having appeared on over 150 recordings and performing with a diverse list of legendary artists from Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Buster Williams, Don Cherry, Bobby Hutcherson and Wayne Shorter to Kenny Garrett, Ornette Coleman, Vernon Reid, James Carter, Meshell Ndegeocello, Cassandra Wilson, Carl Craig and her husband, trumpeter Wallace Roney.



She was also a loyal contributor to the Detroit music community and played and recorded with some of its most creative, contemporary artists including Rayse Biggs, Robin Eubanks, Wendell Harrison, Dave McMurray, Jaribu Shahid, Tani Tabbal, Shahida Nuralah, Sadiq Bey and many others. For a complete list of her recordings and those she’s performed with go to



Besides being a pianist, composer, performer, wife and mother, Ms. Allen was an educator and was an Associate Professor of Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation at the School Of Music Theatre & Dance, at the University of Michigan, and as of 2013, had been Associate Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.



Her extensive Classical and Jazz training and degree in Ethnomusicology were evident in her music and playing virtuosity.
She was a true piano master whose style was characterized by an immense understanding of the piano itself. It was commonplace for her to ornament her performances with long, intricate arpeggios that spanned with width of the keyboard. She would also utilize her knowledge of world music by playing repeated dance-like rhythmic figures and scales and modes quoting various cultures around the world – giving her work a reason to listen more closely. She was like great chef who knew the perfect way to season a dish.


During the past few years she primarily performed with her group, the ACS Trio,  which included drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, and bassist Esperanza Spalding.  We’re sorry to miss hearing Ms. Allen at the Detroit Jazz Festival again this Labor Day weekend. She and her trio, were invited participate in one of Wayne Shorter’s special artist collaborations. Shorter is the festival’s Artist In Residence for 2017. The quintet was also supposed to include keyboardist Leo Genovese.




The ACS Trio performing at the 2013 Portland Jazz Festival.

Photo: Brent Wojahn, The Oregonian


During our nearly three years of doing the Jazz Notes blog, we mentioned Geri Allen many times, whether it was our piece on the famous grads from Cass Tech, or our blog on Women in Jazz. Here’s an excerpt from last year’s birthday tribute where we shared a quote from her describing her many accomplishments in her own words:



“I am a pianist/composer/educator, Guggenheim Fellow, and new Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. I received the very first Lady of Soul Award for jazz, and was also the first woman, and youngest person to receive the Danish “Jazz Par Prize.” My work is featured in The Lisa Gay Hamilton Peabody Award winning film, Beah: A Black Woman Speaks, and on Andy Bey’s Grammy nominated American Song.



“I received an NAACP Image Award nomination in 2011 and also performed in A Theatrical & Musical Celebration Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., MLK: A Monumental Life, for the statue unveiling in Washington, D.C.  I served as musical director for the Mary Lou Williams Collective.


I released a series of solo piano driven recordings between 2008 and 2013: Flying Toward The Sound, A Child Is Born, and Grand River Crossings. The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Jacques Lacombe, commissioned Stones and Streams, an original work to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Stones and Streams was performed as a part of the NJSO’s Gala Celebration in September 2013. Since that time my compositions have been featured on two Grammy Winning CD’s by Terri Lyne Carrington and Dianne Reeves, and I continue to teach, perform and compose.”





This 2013 release was a tribute to Motown and included appearances by Marcus Belgrave and David McMurray.



I first met Ms. Allen in the early 80’s backstage at the DIA where she was performing. One of her mentors, drummer Roy Brooks, introduced us, telling me to watch out for this up and coming pianist who was a true genius of a musician.  Since then I had the opportunity to see her perform many times – hearing her musical genius grow on each occasion.





Detroit Public Radio mainstay, Judy Adams, is a trained pianist, composer and musicologist who hosts a Jazz and contemporary music show on CJAM 99.1FM and guest hosts on WRCJ 90.9FM.





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