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Geri Allen

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.

She has since worked with Ornette Coleman (recording Sound Museum with Coleman in 1996), Dave Holland, Ravi Coltrane, Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette, Oliver Lake, Julius Hemphill, Arthur Blythe, Lester Bowie, Betty Carter and Mary Stallings, and toured as a member of the Charles Lloyd Quartet. She has also recorded CDs under her own name for Minor Music, Verve, Blue Note, Storyville and Telarc. Allen, who is married to trumpeter Wallace Roney, teaches at the University of Michigan as an Associate Professor of Jazz Piano & Improvisation Studies. Though influenced to an extent by Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock and Herbie Nichols, Geri Allen is a true original.