Photo: Geri Allen.
The next show will air on Sunday, January 11, 2014 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This broadcast features an interview with pianist Geri Allen conducted by special guest host Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin. This is a rebroadcast of a 2009 show. You can hear a short preview below.
Who is Geri Allen? Just an award winning pianist and composer who is also an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan. “Suga’ In My Bowl” will explore the life and incredible talent of Geri Allen with guest host Farah Jasmine Griffin.
Professor Allen is currently Director of the Jazz Studies Department at the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned a master’s degree in ethnomusicology.
Geri Allen, pianist/composer, bandleader, educator and Guggenheim Fellow, is the first recipient of the Soul Train, Lady of Soul Award for Jazz. In 2011 Geri Allen, was nominated for an NAACP Award for her Timeline, Tap Quartet Project. Allen is the first woman, and youngest person to receive the Danish Jazz Par Prize. She is a cutting edge performing artist, and continues to concertize internationally.
She is a product of the Detroit Public School System, Howard University and the University of Pittsburgh. Allen moved to NYC in 1982 after completing an advanced degree in ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh, and for the past thirty years has recorded, performed and collaborated with some of the most important artists of our time including Ornette Coleman, Ravi Coltrane, George Shirley, Dewey Redman, Jimmy Cobb, Sandra Turner-Barnes, Charles Lloyd, Marcus Belgrave, Betty Carter, Jason Moran, Lizz Wright, Marian McPartland, Roy Brooks, Vijay Iyer, Charlie Haden and Paul Motion, Laurie Anderson, Terri Lynn Carrington and Esperanza Spalding, Hal Wilner, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Dianne Reeves, Joe Lovano, Dr. Billy Taylor, Carrie Mae Weems, Angelique Kidjo, Mary Wilson and the Supremes, S. Epatha Merkerson, Farah Jasmin Griffin, Howard University’s Afro-Blue and many others.
Allen is a recent recipient of the Howard University Pinnacle Award presented by Professor Connaitre Miller and Afro Blue. Ms. Allen has been a faculty member at Howard University, the New England Conservatory, and the University of Michigan where she taught for ten years.
In 2014, Allen was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Music Degree by Berklee College of Music in Boston. The Honorable Congressman John Conyers Jr. presented the 2014 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Jazz Legacy Award to Ms. Allen.
The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra commissioned Geri Allen in 2013, to compose new works for the 50th Anniversary celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. She composed a piece “Stones & Streams” a work for orchestra, chorus, piano and narrator.
She is the musical director of the Mary Lou Williams Collective, recording and performing the music of the great Mary Lou Williams, including her sacred work, Mass For Peace. Allen collaborated with S. Epatha Merkerson and Farah Jasmin Griffin on two music theatre projects, “Great Apollo Women”, which premiered at the legendary Apollo Theatre, and “A Conversation with Mary Lou”, which premiered at the Harlem Stage, as an educational component for the Harlem Stage collaboration. The featured artist was Carmen Lundy, and Allen’s long time trio members Kenny Davis and Kassa Overall). The University of Pittsburgh hosted the first ever Mary Lou Williams Cyber Symposium where ViJay Iyer, Jason Moran, and Allen performed a three piano improvisation from Harvard, Columbia and the University of Pittsburgh, in real time using Internet 2 technology.
Geri Allen is the product of a family of educators. Her father Mount V. Allen Jr is a retired Detroit Public School Principal, and her mother Barbara Jean was a defense contract administrator for the U.S. Government. “Our parents insisted my brother and I go to college. We took their advice. I pursued a career as a jazz performer, and completed my undergrad degree at Howard, and my master’s at Pitt. Mount pursued a career as a jazz advocate and presented, completing his masters at Lehigh University. He is currently Director of Operations, at the San Francisco Jazz Center.”
Geri Allen, a mother of three, acknowledges her family for making it possible for her to sustain longevity in a sometimes challenging and always changing field of the music industry.
Allen has enjoyed a very successful over thirty-year performing career as a NYC jazz musician. She has now returned to Pittsburgh to continue her legacy as a cutting edge pianist/composer, recording and performing artist. Allen is just as passionate about her work with her undergrad and graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh, and she firmly believes that “meaningful access to music is one of the keys to success in any field, and music informs our sensitivity to others”. She is a fierce advocate for all children of all ages to have direct hands on access to music, and the creative and empowering process jazz inspires.
Unfortunately, you might have missed the next opportunity to see Ms. Allen at NYC Winter Jazzfest 2015 on January 9 with other former Suga’ guests David Murray and Terri Lyne Carrington. However, you could catch the remainder of the performance of other former Suga’ guests at the JazzFest. Also check our Suga’ blog for the JazzFest cheat sheet and review coverage.
Farah Jasmine Griffin is the William B. Ransford Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and African American Studies at Columbia University, and also served as the Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies. The author of Clawing at the Limits of Cool, If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery, and Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends, for which she was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Dr. Griffin previously appeared on the show to talk about Clawing at the Limits of Cool on John Coltrane and Miles Davis’s musical collaboration and as guest co-host for our show with pianist Geri Allen (audio in our archive).
Show engineered, produced, hosted, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.
Watch Allen perform live.