A major pianist since the 1980s, the flexible Geri Allen stretches from mainstream hard-bop to the avant-garde. Born in Pontiac, Mich., she learned about music and jazz at the Cass Technical High School in Detroit, where one of her main teachers was trumpeter Marcus Belgrave. She graduated from Howard University in 1979 with a degree in jazz studies. After moving to New York, Allen studied with Kenny Barron. She earned a master’s in ethnomusicology at the University of Pittsburgh and returned to New York in 1982, becoming an important part of the New York jazz scene. At first Allen was heard with many of the “M-Base” players and she played keyboards on a few of Steve Coleman’s albums. She made her debut as a leader on her album The Printmakers in 1984 and 1988’s Etude, a trio set with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian, gained her attention.
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