Geri Allen

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geri allen

Associate Professor of Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation

Office Location(s): 226 Stearns
gaallen@umich.edu

  • About

    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, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Bill Cosby, Mal Waldron, Lee Konitz, Vernon Reid, Jackie Hillsman and Peter Bernard, JoAnne Akalaitis, Clark Terry, Carrie Mae Weems, Lester Bowie's From the Roots To The Source,  Meshell Ndegeocello, Howard University's Afro Blue, Dewey Redman, 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 featuring Ornette Coleman, Maroons, Homegrown, The Printmakers, Twenty One featuring Ron Carter and Tony Williams, The Gathering, The Life of a Song, featuring Jack Dejohnette and Dave Holland,  Timeless Portraits and Dreams, featuring George Shirley, Donald Walden, Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb, and Carmen Lundy.  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 this year on Motema Music along with Refractions: Flying Toward the Sound, a work for solo piano which she composed during the period of her Guggenheim Fellowship. The music was first performed at Berklee College of Music in 2009, and the complete work, including the accompanying art film by celebrated film maker and photographer Carrie Mae Weems, was premiered at UMMA, The University of Michigan Museum Of Art this past spring.

    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. Howard University has honored her with its Benny Golson Award, while Spelman College bestowed its African Classical Music Award on her in 2007. Allen was the first recipient of the Soul Train, Lady Of Soul Award for Jazz. She 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, and was recently presented the 2010 Kennedy Center  Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Award, by Jazz Icon, Dr. Billy Taylor, and Kevin Struthers, Director of Jazz Programming.

    She is a Detroit native and graduate of Cass Technical High School.  Allen, a passionate arts  advocate in support of the arts in the Detroit Public Schools and all public schools across 
    the country,  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.

    Professor Allen came to The School of Music, Theatre, & Dance after teaching at 
    The New England Conservatory of Music.

    In addition to her own performances and the recordings under her own name, Professor Allen 
    has participated in a number of notable collaborations. These include playing on Americana, and Classic  Ellington, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, Miles: Cool and Collected, a CD anthology of Miles Davis' work from 1956 to 1984; tenure in the Ornette Coleman Quartet from 1991 to 1995, culminating in the celebrated Sound Museum CDs; and The Mary Lou Williams Collective of which she is the musical director. The Collective has been celebrating Mary Lou Williams' Centennial with performances at  Jazz @ Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center,  in Madison, and recently at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, NJ. The Collective has also issued Zodiac Suite: Revisited on Mary Records. Allen played the role of Mary Lou Williams in Robert Altman's film Kansas City, and she contributed to the original musical score to the filmed documentary Beah: A Black Woman Speaks, directed by Lisa Gay Hamilton, which won a Peabody Award. Most recently, Professor Allen has collaborated with Trio 3 whose members include Oliver Lake, Andrew Cyrille, and Reggie Workman. A CD by these four musicians has just been released on Intakt Records. It is called At This Time.

    Professor Allen's work as a composer has been honored by SESAC. Her ability has won her 
    commissions from Jazz at Lincoln Center, Music Theatre Group, American Music Theatre Festival, Stanford University, and, most recently, from The Walt Whitman Arts Center and Meet the Composer who commissioned For the Healing of the Nations, a Sacred Jazz Work, composed in tribute to the victims and survivors of the 9/11 tragedy. This extended work premiered on September 10, 2006, and will be performed again this upcoming season.

    Geri Allen continues to perform all over the world.

  • Education
    • B.A. (Jazz Studies and Piano), Howard Univ. M.A. (Ethnomusicology), Univ. of Pittsburgh