R.I.P.: Geri Allen, Pt. One

I’m going to begin by posting tributes from fellow artists. If you’ve listened to anything and esp. if you heard her perform, you will immediately understand the profound outpouring of respect, honor and admiration.

“Geri was and is a divine prism of pure heart and artistry. She conjured sonic rainbows, beaming new color spectrums out of plain black and white keys, and perpetually revealed new aspects of that constant creative sun at the center of her mighty musical orbit. Geri tirelessly spread that wondrous multi-faceted light to audiences, band-mates and students around the world. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to bask and share in her glow. Far sooner than we ever imagined, she has moved on, to merge — I’m sure in her own original way — with the eternal source of all art and light. Though her departure has left a gaping absence in the music, and the hearts of everyone who knew her, Geri’s life-sound will emanate forever… increasing and enlightening the musical expanse of our shared humanity.” — Esperanza Spalding

“Geri, I have no words. You have rendered me speechless once again. Your wisdom and grace in life and death have touched me more than you’ll ever know. You are a sage, a truly special spirit, now happily soaring freely. In reflection, I can’t help but wishing I had been even more present, even more loving and even more patient while in your presence. You are an inspiring maverick and an exemplary creator that I’m proud to have been able to call my friend and bandmate. You’ve positively touched so many and my life and art will always reflect your vision and influence. I wish we had more time together to discover and explore, or chat and laugh, but I am the better for having already basked in your brilliance. Thank you for your AMAZING gifts. I am comforted in knowing that we all have an abiding journey and I am confident that we will re-encounter. I love you, Sis. Peace and eternal light, always…” — Terri Lyne Carrington

“I first met Geri when she was a student at Howard. She would take the train up to my house in Brooklyn for lessons. Even then it was apparent that Geri heard some things musically that others did not. In 1994 we performed a duo piano concert at the Caramoor Festival in New York and I realized how fearless she was and at the same time how focused she was. It was a lesson that I took to heart. Geri is not only a great musician, composer and pianist, she is a giant and will be sorely missed.” — Kenny Barron

“It was a pleasure and an honor to know Ms. Geri Allen. A wonderful musician, educator, and beautiful spirit. I felt very grateful to work with her during the recent performances that we had together. She will be greatly missed but her spirit and legacy will live on forever.” — McCoy Tyner

“I remember the first time I heard a Geri Allen phrase. She was in the piano chair on a recording, and early into the first track there was an 8 bar piano solo before the melody returned. In a flash, she played the most amazing free wheeling 8 bars full of gesture and nuance. I had never heard anything like it before, and therefore Geri became the pianist I would copy incessantly. There has not been a pianist like Geri Allen in the Pantheon of Jazz. She was the one that pulled together all of the histories, from Mary Lou Williams and Erroll Garner to Cecil Taylor and M-Base. She made the newest language on the piano. It was the sound that attracted so many of my peers. She could turn a corner with a phrase and make the car feel like it was balancing on two wheels. She could whip up energy while comping for someone that I’m sure made the soloist feel like they were levitating. And most of all, as a loving colleague, she nurtured so many of us. Gently urging us towards our destiny meanwhile being the best example we had for ‘how to do it.’ She is a God.” — Jason Moran

“You moved me with your gentle yet precise touch on the piano, I could feel your sensitivity, your grace. Yes Geri, your grace. You ARE Grace itself. I’m with you Geri, sitting beside you, holding your hand. Can you feel it? And I know that you are wrapped in the grace of God and all His heavenly Angels. I know that LOVE surrounds you, and that you are filled with a wondrous PEACE through the presence of your children, your babies, your warrior sister Ora, and a multitude of family and friends. The world has been blessed because of you, I have been blessed because of you. Know that I love you deeply dearest Geri! Thank you for the opportunity to stand in your light, to see the world through your musical eyes.

Thank you for connecting ‘A Child is Born’ with ‘Silent Night.’

Thank you Geri Allen. I love you.” — Dee Dee Bridgewater

“We are all in shock, as Geri and I had many conversations upon her return from Italy. I asked her was she tired, had she rested enough to write the preface to my Transcription Book, Marseille. Not a word from her about her illness. She spent some of her last strength writing the preface. This act of hers will remain with me forever. May The Almighty Creator bestow on her the Ultimate Peace.” — Ahmad Jamal

“Many will speak of her music, her fierceness on the piano, her work as an educator but I will always remember this; the last we met we talked of many things, we laughed, enjoyed a meal together it was a beautiful day. When it was time for me to head home we hugged and said, “l love you.” That is what I will keep with me.” — S. Epatha Merkerson

“Geri Allen was a wonderful human being…an elegant quiet, private, unassuming powerhouse. Her way was peaceful and patient; her spirit was committed to mentoring, teaching and exploring possibilities. Geri was authentic and her artistry impeccably refined and defined. May my friend who embraced tranquility throughout life rest in divine peace…she will be greatly missed.” — Dianne Reeves

“Geri was one of the great contributors to jazz, a jazz master. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to create music together with her. She touched a lot of people with her distinctive voice on piano and as a person. She will be missed but her legacy will continue. Love you Geri.” — Jack DeJohnette

“There has been a definable language for all styles of jazz. Geri Allen gained respect and influenced generations of musicians across all styles with a style that was never able to be defined as anything but singular. She funneled every nuance of jazz history in her playing and was able to always sound completely fresh.” — Christian McBride

“As Geri Allen’s life continues to unfold, her eternal journey will be a constant act of indestructible creativity… We’ll be with her all the way!” — Wayne Shorter

“Geri Allen’s music will always remind us that we do not have to relinquish our cultural anchors in order to engage in courageous explorations. Her brilliance will inspire generations to come. Deepest condolences to Geri’s father, brother, and children. ¡Geri Allen Presente!” — Angela Davis

“Geri Allen always gave me the greatest joy in performance. Her subtle, yet powerfully transformative energies stirred my soul. She had the extraordinary ability to dig deep and navigate the hidden harmonic undercurrents of the music while simultaneously delivering the sweet spots. Calling her gifts genius is an understatement.” — Cassandra Wilson

“Geri Allen was all music — she transcended labels and gender. Her respect for the tradition and history of our music was immense. She was a poet on the keyboard and brought a purity of intent, focus and fierce determination to the music she played. Geri’s palate and harmonic concept was very beautiful, elevated. Her playing was peerless on the two albums we made together; ‘Lift Every Voice’ and ‘Jumping the Creek.’ On stage, she played facing the drums and bass, and could look into their eyes to communicate. Since my back was to her, I once asked her how she and I communicated. She said, ‘sonically.’ It was my honor to have had that sacred, sonic communication with her.” — Charles Lloyd

“‘Eternity is in Love with the creations of time,’ said William Blake. Geri is one of eternities special creations. Throughout her life, she was able to deliver the all-encompassing reach of eternities passion, power, grace and evolution with stunning poise. She is now delivered back to eternity and we are forever grateful for her gifts in our time.” — Sean Jones

“30 years ago, Charlie Haden introduced me to the music of Geri Allen. I still recall the mutual excitement and enthusiasm in the room as we listened to Geri’s incredible piano solos. When I arrived in New York in ’91, Geri was one of the first to embrace me, calling me for gigs, taking me under her wing, so to speak. There were others who filled a similar role but none quite like Geri. She was kind and dignified, with a quiet strength that often reminded me of my mother Alice. I’ll never forget the first times performing with her and feeling elevated by her accompaniment, like my feet were literally rising off the stage a little. I could play one or two notes and her musical response could evoke all the answers to the universe. And she did it all with such ease, grace and strength. I am forever grateful for the many years and many opportunities I had to know and work with Geri. She was a beautiful, warm, and soulful friend. Her music, her sound, her approach to the piano and improvisation was completely and totally her own. The love and enthusiasm and excitement I felt for Geri from day one will continue on throughout my entire life.” — Ravi Coltrane

“The music of Geri Allen flows freely from her heart with an unmeasurable amount of love. I can remember Geri being at a sound check attending to her motherly duties while checking the sound of the piano. That’s a lot of love. She is simply an amazing spiritual being. Her love will continue in all of our hearts forever! God Bless You!!” — Charnett Moffett

“Geri Allen was a great musician and great person. I’m honored to have known her about 30 years and honored to perform with her in various bands. Geri, you’re truly missed.” — Kenny Davis

“Geri Allen existed in her absolute truth for her entire life. In leading by example, she continuously inspired her fellow creative spirits to work towards authenticity and excellence. Her legacy as an artist and educator will surely live on in the classroom, on the stage, and beyond. I am eternally grateful for my lifelong friendship with Geri Allen and all of the time that we shared.” — Robert Hurst

“Geri was a powerful innovator in modern music and a visionary pianist. She was also a scholar and historian of African American music, a community organizer, an institution builder, a feminist, a deeply committed and big-hearted educator, and a quietly determined leader. As a musician she was a conduit for spiritual truths and healing energies. This is a tremendous loss for all of us, and we will strive to uphold & honor her legacy.” — Vijay Iyer

“Geri Allen was one of the greatest most influential pianist of the 80’s Renaissance and in all the history of our music. She influenced several subsequent generations of pianist, composers and forward thinkers of music. I was blessed to have her on several of my recordings and her playing on V and Triangular help set, maintain and raise the standard for the music that followed. She was a gentle, peaceful loving spirit, a dutiful mother and the world is a better place because of her. Long live the music and Legacy of Geri Allen: Jazz Warrior Queen” —  Ralph Peterson, Jr.

“Geri Allen and I have been friends and colleagues for 30 years. We met in the mid-80’s when we were forming and developing the M-Base Collective with several other musicians in Brooklyn. Her voice was so very unique. She was a very sensitive person and that sensitivity came through her music in shimmering waves of brilliance.” — Robin Eubanks

 

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