Geri Allen

Geri Antoinette Allen (June 12, 1957 – June 27, 2017) was an American jazz pianist, composer, and recording artist.[1][2] In addition to her career as a performer and bandleader, Allen was an associate professor of music and the director of the Jazz Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Geri Allen
Allen in 2008
Background information
Born(1957-06-12)June 12, 1957
Pontiac, Michigan, U.S.
DiedJune 27, 2017(2017-06-27) (aged 60)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
GenresJazz, blues, funk, gospel
Occupation(s)Musician, educator, composer
Years active1982–2017
LabelsMotema Music, Polygram, Storyville, Blue Note, Telarc

Early life and education

Allen was born in Pontiac, Michigan, on June 12, 1957, and grew up in Detroit.[3] "Her father, Mount Allen Jr, was a school principal, her mother, Barbara, a government administrator in the defence industry."[4] Allen was educated in Detroit Public Schools.[5] She started playing the piano at the age of 7, and settled on becoming a jazz pianist in her early teens.[4]

Allen graduated from Howard University's jazz studies program in 1979.[6] She then continued her studies: with pianist Kenny Barron in New York;[4] and at the University of Pittsburgh, where she completed a master's degree in ethnomusicology in 1982.[6] After this, she returned to New York.[4]

Later life and career

Allen became involved in the M-Base collective in New York.[4] Her recording debut as a leader was in 1984, resulting in The Printmakers.[3] This trio album, with bassist Anthony Cox and drummer Andrew Cyrille, also featured some of Allen's compositions.[3]

Allen married trumpeter Wallace Roney in 1995.[4] They had two daughters and son; the marriage ended in divorce.[4] Allen was awarded the Jazzpar Prize in 1996.[4] In the same year, she recorded two albums with Ornette Coleman: Sound Museum: Hidden Man and Sound Museum: Three Women.[6]

In 2006, Allen composed "For the Healing of the Nations", a suite written in tribute to the victims and survivors of the September 11 attacks.[4] She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008.[4]

Allen was a longtime resident of Montclair, New Jersey.[7] She became director of the jazz studies program at the University of Pittsburgh in 2013.[3]

Allen died on June 27, 2017, two weeks after her 60th birthday, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after suffering from cancer.[8]



As leader/co-leader

Main sources:[13][14]

Year recorded Title Label Personnel/Notes
1984 The Printmakers Minor Music Trio, with Anthony Cox (bass), Andrew Cyrille (drums, percussion)
1985 Home Grown Minor Music Solo piano
1986 Open on All Sides in the Middle Minor Music With Rayse Biggs (trumpet, flugelhorn), Robin Eubanks (trombone), David McMurray (soprano sax, flute), Steve Coleman (alto sax), Jaribu Shahid (bass), Tani Tabbal (drums), Shahita Nurallah (vocals); plus guests Mino Cinelu (drums, percussion), Lloyd Storey (tap dance), Marcus Belgrave (flugelhorn)
1989 Twylight Minor Music Trio, with Jaribu Shahid (bass), Tani Tabbal (drums), plus Sadiq Bey (congas, percussion), Eli Fountain (percussion) as guests, and Clarice Taylor Bell (vocals) on one track
1989 In the Year of the Dragon JMT Trio, with Charlie Haden (bass), Paul Motian (drums); one track quartet, with Juan Lazaro Mendolas (flute) added
1989 Segments DIW Trio, with Charlie Haden (bass), Paul Motian (drums)
1990 The Nurturer Blue Note Sextet, with Marcus Belgrave (trumpet, flugelhorn), Kenny Garrett (alto sax), Robert Hurst (bass), Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums), Eli Fountain (percussion)
1990 Live at the Village Vanguard DIW Trio, with Charlie Haden (bass), Paul Motian (drums); in concert
1992 Maroons Blue Note With Marcus Belgrave and Wallace Roney (trumpet), Anthony Cox and Dwayne Dolphin (bass), Pheeroan akLaff and Tani Tabbal (drums) in various combinations
1994 Twenty One Blue Note Trio, with Ron Carter (bass), Tony Williams (drums)
1995–96 Eyes in the Back of Your Head Blue Note Some tracks solo piano/synthesizer; some duos with Ornette Coleman (alto sax), Wallace Roney (trumpet) and Cyro Baptista (percussion); some trio tracks, with Roney (trumpet) and Baptista (percussion)
1996 Some Aspects of Water Storyville With Henrik Bolberg Pedersen (trumpet, flugelhorn), Johnny Coles (flugelhorn), Kjeld Ipsen (trombone), Axel Windfeld (tuba), Michael Hove (alto sax, flute, clarinet), Uffe Markussen (tenor sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet), Palle Danielsson (bass), Lenny White (drums)
1998 The Gathering Verve With Wallace Roney (trumpet, flugelhorn), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Dwight Andrews (piccolo, alto flute, bass flute, bass clarinet), Vernon Reid (guitar), Ralphe Armstrong (7-stringbass), Buster Williams (bass), Lenny White (drums), Mino Cinelu (percussion) in various combinations
2004 The Life of a Song Telarc Trio, with Dave Holland (bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums); one track sextet, with Marcus Belgrave (flugelhorn), Dwight Andrews (sax), Clifton Anderson (trombone) added
2006 Timeless Portraits and Dreams Telarc Trio, with Ron Carter (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums); some tracks solo piano; some tracks with Wallace Roney (trumpet), Donald Walden (tenor sax), Carmen Lundy, George Shirley and The Atlanta Jazz Chorus (vocals) added in various combinations
2008 Flying Toward the Sound Motéma Solo piano
2010 Geri Allen & Timeline Live Motéma Quartet, with Kenny Davis (bass), Kassa Overall (drums), Maurice Chestnut (tap dance)
2011 A Child Is Born Motéma Solo keyboards; some tracks with Carolyn Brewer, Connaitre Miller, Barbara Roney and Farah Jasmine Griffin (vocals) added in various combinations
2012 Grand River Crossings Motéma Solo piano; some tracks duo, with Marcus Belgrave (trumpet); one track duo with David McMurray (alto sax)
2015 Perfection Motéma Trio, with David Murray (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Terri Lyne Carrington (drums); one track sextet, with and Wallace Roney, Jr. (trumpet), Craig Harris (trombone), Charnett Moffett (bass) added

As sidewoman

Main source:[15]

With Franco Ambrosetti

With Cecil Brooks III

With Roy Brooks

With Betty Carter

With Ornette Coleman

With Steve Coleman

With Buddy Collette

With Charlie Haden

With Craig Handy

With Oliver Lake

With Charles Lloyd

With Frank Lowe

With Paul Motian

With Greg Osby

With Dewey Redman

With Wallace Roney

With Gregory Charles Royal

  • Dream Come True (GCR 1979 reissued Celeste Japan 2008)

With Woody Shaw

With John Stubblefield

  • Bushman Song (Enja, 1986)

With Gary Thomas

With Trio 3 (Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman & Andrew Cyrille)

  • At This Time (Intakt, 2009)
  • Celebrating Mary Lou Williams (Intakt, 2011)

With the Mary Lou Williams Collective

  • Zodiac Suite: Revisited (Mary, 2006)

With "Various"

  • Kansas City (A Robert Altman Film, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (Verve, 1996)


Geri Allen portrays jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams and performs with the jazz band in the Robert Altman film Kansas City.

See also


  1. Lars Helgert ([s.d.]). Allen, Geri. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Accessed July 2017. (subscription required).
  2. Mark Gilbert, Gary W. Kennedy ([s.d.]). Allen, Geri. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, second edition. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Accessed July 2017. (subscription required).
  3. Russonello, Giovanni (June 27, 2017). "Geri Allen, Pianist Who Reconciled Jazz's Far-Flung Styles, Dies at 60". The New York Times.
  4. Fordham, John (July 3, 2017). "Geri Allen Obituary". The Guardian.
  5. Cook, Richard (2005). Richard Cook's Jazz Encyclopedia. London: Penguin Books. p. 8. ISBN 0-141-00646-3.
  6. Schudel, Matt (June 28, 2017). "Geri Allen, Versatile Jazz Pianist, Composer and Educator, Dies at 60". The Washington Post.
  7. Staudter, Thomas. "Making Jazz and Family, Home and the Road Work Together", The New York Times, September 9, 2001. Accessed September 18, 2017. "Her luggage already packed for a late afternoon flight to San Francisco, Geri Allen, a jazz pianist, still had several precious hours remaining before her departure out of Newark, so she was filling the morning in the company of three children, ages 3 to 11. Ms. Allen's husband, Wallace Roney, a trumpeter, had returned home after midnight from an evening rehearsal at Carnegie Hall, and to respect his need to sleep, mother and children romped in the yard until growling stomachs sent them back inside to the breakfast table.... Ms. Allen and Mr. Roney have lived in their three-story frame house in Montclair, a short trip from Manhattan, since 1991." Geri Allen and Wallace Roney were divorced in 2008.
  8. Adlet, David R. (27 June 2017). "Geri Allen, Brilliantly Expressive Pianist, Composer and Educator, Dies at 60". WGBO. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  9. "Jimmy Page, Geri Allen, Valerie Simpson, Thara Memory to Receive Honorary Degrees | Berklee College of Music". Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  10. "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Geri Allen". Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  11. "Geri Allen, Pianist, Composer And Educator, Dies At 60". Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  12. "Howard University Jazz Ensemble – Benny Golson Award". Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  13. Jazzlists: Geri Allen: leader and co-leader discography, accessed November 22, 2017
  14. Geri Allen discography, accessed November 22, 2017
  15. Jazzlists: Geri Allen sidewoman: main albums and selected single artist collections, accessed November 22, 2017
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