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Geri Allen: Flying Toward the Sound

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There’s always a certain “Manifesto” sensibility on solo piano recordings, but if that was all there was to Flying Toward the Sound, then Geri Allen could have gotten by simply releasing its protean, 16-minute fourth track, “GOD’s Ancient Sky.” Instead, the disc is perhaps the deepest, richest vein of music Allen has mined in her 30-year career.

Consisting of an eight-part suite (“Refractions: Flying Towards the Sound”) plus an offering to her son Wallace, the album claims inspiration by McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock and Cecil Taylor. Indeed, the ghost of each pianist’s influence inhabits the “Refractions” suite; somewhat surprisingly, Taylor is the most present, with “Dancing Mystic Poets at Midnight” even containing a repeated figure similar to his “Silent Tongues” motif. Nonetheless, every note of music is unmistakably Allen: clear, carefully plotted (even in the tangles of notes that shape the title track), and part of a larger soundscape that’s as surreal as it is melodic.

If this sounds cerebral, it is-it’s also profoundly stirring, perhaps nowhere more than on “Red Velvet in Winter”; its first two thirds are all stridency, even passion, sliding at the end into a dissipation that still hints at the certainty preceding it. The non-suite track, “Your Pure Self (From Mother to Son),” is a pronounced turn from surrealism, a sort of postmodern “Pomp and Circumstance” that weaves tenderness, nostalgia and exhilaration into an insoluble mass.

Originally Published