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Geri Allen: Eyes… in the back of Your Head

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Pianist and composer Geri Allen is certainly one of the more distinguished musicians of her generation. The embodiment of an inside-out philosophy that finds her as comfortable searching new ground as she is trodding familiar firmament, her Blue Note stint (she recently signed with Verve) now finds her traveling from the standards trio project Twenty One, with Ron Carter and Tony Williams, to this session, where she is flying largely without a safety net.

Working in very spare confines, Allen dialogues with Ornette Coleman, trumpeter and soulmate Wallace Roney and percussionist Cyro Baptista, largely in duet, sometimes in trio. She shares two tracks with Ornette-and when was the last time he guested on someone’s record?-both of which are largely spontaneous improvisations, as are two of the tracks with Roney. She and Baptista open with “Mother Wit,” with probing piano and ude drums. In conversation she’s a thoroughly grounded woman, in music she brings that as well as a sense of storytelling and picture painting that never borders on the precious, and this recording is equal parts-pure Geri Allen, always rewarding.