Photo: Geri Allen | © Joyce Jones/ Suga Bowl Photography. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons CC-NC-BY-ND. Used with Permission.
The next show will air on Sunday, December 24, 2017 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 is our second 2018 Winter Jazz Festival preview program. The Winter Jazz Festival will present a tribute program on Monday, January 15, 2018 to the late pianist Geri Allen, who made her transition this past June 27. We will hear remembrances from former Suga’ guests: long time Manager and friend Ora Harris, Motema Records President Jana Herzen, Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, Professor and Author Farah Jasmine Griffin, Pianist Vijay Iyer, Ruth Cameron Haden (widow of bassist Charlie Haden) and Radio Announcer Sheila Elaine Anderson.
Who was Geri Allen? Just an award winning pianist and composer who was also an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan. Professor Allen’s last post was as 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, was 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 was the first woman, and youngest person to receive the Danish Jazz Par Prize. She was a cutting edge performing artist, and continues to concertize internationally.
She was a product of the Detroit Public School System, Howard University and the University of Pittsburgh. Allen moved to NYC in 1982 after she completed her 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 a 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 was 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 was the product of a family of educators. Her father Mount V. Allen Jr was 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 had enjoyed a very successful over thirty-year performing career as a NYC jazz musician. She returned to Pittsburgh to continue her legacy as a cutting edge pianist/composer, recording and performing artist. Allen was just as passionate about her work with her undergrad and graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh, and she firmly believed that “meaningful access to music was one of the keys to success in any field, and music informs our sensitivity to others”. She was 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.
Geri Allen is survived by her father Mount Vernell Allen, Jr., brother Mount Vernell Allen III and three children: Laila, Wally and Barbara Antoinette.
(Bio adapted from the Geri Allen website)
This program is hosted, engineered, produced, 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.
Geri Allen will be the subject of a tribute concert at the 2018 Winter Jazz Festival at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium (63 5th Avenue in Manhattan) on January 15. Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington will be the musical director of a spectacular cast, including Angela Davis, Esperanza Spalding, Craig Taborn, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Ingrid Jensen, Jack DeJohnette, Jaimeo Brown, Jeff Tain Watts, Kassa Overall, Kris Davis, Linda May Han Oh, Maurice Chestnut, Mino Cinelu, Ravi Coltrane, S. Epatha Merkerson, Tia Fuller, Vijay Iyer and more to be announced. Concert proceeds will go to the Geri Allen estate.
Hank Williams is assistant producer for Suga’ in My Bowl and produces the weekly “On the Bandstand” segment as well as running the show’s website and blog, where he has reviewed several jazz festivals. His writing has also appeared in Left Turn magazine and American Music Review. He teaches at Lehman and Hunter colleges in the City University of New York system.
Photo: Vijay Iyer.| Credit: Bob Doran via Flickr. Creative Commons licensed by photographer.
The next show will air on Sunday, April 19, 2015 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 will feature an interview with pianist, composer, and educator Vijay Iyer.
Grammy-nominated composer-pianist Vijay Iyer (pronounced “VID-jay EYE-yer”) was described by Pitchfork. as “one of the most interesting and vital young pianists in jazz today,” by the Los Angeles Weekly as “a boundless and deeply important young star,” and by Minnesota Public Radio as “an American treasure.” He was named DownBeat Magazine‘s 2014 Pianist of the Year, a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, and a 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist. In 2014 he began a permanent appointment as the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts in the Department of Music at Harvard University.
The New York Times observes, “There’s probably no frame wide enough to encompass the creative output of the pianist Vijay Iyer.” Iyer has released twenty albums covering remarkably diverse terrain, most recently for the ECM label. The latest include Break Stuff (2015), with a coveted five-star rating in DownBeat Magazine, featuring the Vijay Iyer Trio, hailed by PopMatters as “the best band in jazz”; Mutations (2014), featuring Iyer’s music for piano, string quartet and electronics, which “extends and deepens his range… showing a delicate, shimmering, translucent side of his playing” (Chicago Tribune); and Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi (2014), “his most challenging and impressive work, the scintillating score to a compelling film by Prashant Bhargava” (DownBeat), performed by International Contemporary Ensemble and released on DVD and BluRay.
Iyer’s trio (Iyer, piano; Marcus Gilmore, drums; Stephan Crump, bass) made its name with two tremendously acclaimed and influential albums, Accelerando (2012) and Historicity (2009). Accelerando was voted #1 Jazz Album of the Year for 2012 in three separate critics polls surveying hundreds of critics worldwide, hosted by DownBeat, Jazz Times, and Rhapsody, respectively, and also was chosen as jazz album of the year by NPR, the Los Angeles Times, PopMatters, and Amazon.com. Iyer received an unprecedented “quintuple crown” in the 2012 DownBeat International Critics Poll (winning Jazz Artist of the Year, Pianist of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year, Jazz Group of the Year, and Rising Star Composer categories), a “quadruple crown” in the JazzTimes extended critics poll (winning Artist of the Year, Acoustic/Mainstream Group of the Year, Pianist of the Year, and Album of the Year), the 2012 and 2013 Pianist of the Year Awards and the 2010 Musician of the Year Award from the Jazz Journalists Association, and the 2013 ECHO Award (the “German Grammy”) for best international pianist. Historicity was a 2010 Grammy Nominee for Best Instrumental Jazz Album, and was named #1 Jazz Album of 2009 in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Metro Times, National Public Radio, PopMatters.com, the Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll, and the Downbeat International Critics Poll, and the trio won the 2010 ECHO Award for best international ensemble.
Iyer’s 2013 collaboration with poet Mike Ladd, Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project, based on the dreams of veterans of color from America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was hailed as #1 Jazz Album of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and described in JazzTimes as “impassioned, haunting, [and] affecting.” Along with their previous projects In What Language? (2004) and Still Life with Commentator (2007), Holding It Down rounded out a trilogy of politically searing albums about post-9/11 American life. These projects were hailed as “unfailingly imaginative and significant” (JazzTimes) and praised for their “powerful narrative invention and ravishing trance-jazz… an eloquent tribute to the stubborn, regenerative powers of the human spirit” (Rolling Stone).
Iyer’s accomplishments extend well beyond his recordings. His recent composer commissions include “Playlist for an Extreme Occasion” (2012) written for Silk Road Ensemble (and released on their 2013 album A Playlist without Borders); “Dig The Say,” written for Brooklyn Rider and released on their 2014 album Almanac; “Mozart Effects” (2011) and “Time, Place, Action” (2014) for Brentano String Quartet; “Bruits” (2014) for Imani Winds and pianist Cory Smythe; “Rimpa Transcriptions” (2012) written for Bang on a Can All-Stars; “UnEasy” (2011) commissioned by NYC’s Summerstage in collaboration with choreographer Karole Armitage; “Three Fragments” (2011) for Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society. His orchestral work Interventions was commissioned and premiered by the American Composers Orchestra in 2007 under the baton of Dennis Russell Davies. It was praised by The New York Times as “all spiky and sonorous,” and by the Philadelphia City Paper for its “heft and dramatic vision and a daring sense of soundscape.” Other works include Mutations I-X (2005) commissioned and premiered by the string quartet ETHEL; “Three Episodes for Wind Quintet” (1999) written for Imani Winds; a “ravishing” (Variety) score for the original theater/dance work Betrothed (2007); the award-winning film score for Teza (2008) by legendary filmmaker Haile Gerima; a suite of acoustic jazz cues for the sports channel ESPN (2009); and the prize-winning audiovisual installation Release (2010) in collaboration with filmmaker Bill Morrison. Forthcoming commissions include pieces for Jennifer Koh, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and So Percussion. His concert works are published by Schott Music. An active electronic musician and producer, Iyer displays his digital audio artistry on his own recordings Still Life with Commentator, Holding it Down, Mutations, and Radhe Radhe, and in his remixes for British Asian electronica pioneer Talvin Singh, Islamic punk band The Kominas, and composer-performer Meredith Monk.
Iyer was voted the 2010 Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association, and named one of 2011’s “50 Most Influential Global Indians” by GQ India. Other honors include the Greenfield Prize, the Alpert Award in the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, the India Abroad Publisher’s Special Award for Excellence, and numerous critics’ prizes.
Iyer’s many collaborators include creative music pioneers Steve Coleman, Wadada Leo Smith, Roscoe Mitchell, Butch Morris, George Lewis, Amina Claudine Myers, William Parker, Graham Haynes, Miya Masaoka, Pamela Z, John Zorn; next-generation artists Rudresh Mahanthappa, Rez Abbasi, Craig Taborn, Ambrose Akinmusire, Liberty Ellman, Steve Lehman, Matana Roberts, Tyshawn Sorey; Dead Prez, DJ Spooky, Himanshu Suri of Das Racist, High Priest of Antipop Consortium, DJ Val Jeanty, Karsh Kale, Suphala, Imani Uzuri, and Talvin Singh; filmmakers Haile Gerima, Prashant Bhargava, and Bill Morrison; choreographer Karole Armitage; and poets Mike Ladd, Amiri Baraka, Charles Simic, and Robert Pinsky.
A polymath whose career has spanned the sciences, the humanities and the arts, Iyer received an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the cognitive science of music from the University of California, Berkeley. He has published in Journal of Consciousness Studies, Wire, Music Perception, JazzTimes, Journal of the Society for American Music, Critical Studies in Improvisation, in the anthologies Arcana IV, Sound Unbound, Uptown Conversation, The Best Writing on Mathematics: 2010, and in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies. Iyer has taught at Manhattan School of Music, New York University, and the New School, and he is the Director of The Banff Centre’s International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, an annual 3-week program in Alberta, Canada. Iyer recently finished a multi-year residency with San Francisco Performances, cultivating new audiences and working with schools and community organizations. He is a Steinway artist and uses Ableton Live software.
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.
Listen to the show for a chance to win a pair of tickets for one of the Vijay Iyer Trio shows at the Jazz Standard during the week of April 22-26th.
Watch the Vijay Iyer Trio play “Actions Speak” live at the 2012 Winter Jazz Fest!
Watch Vijay Iyer Trio play their fantastic cover of “Human Nature” live for National Public Radio!
Watch Iyer play with TRIO3 in a live set at the 2015 Winter Jazz Fest!
Photo Credit: Joyce Jones. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
The next show will air on Sunday, May 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. During this membership/fund drive special, Suga’ In My Bowl will feature Amiri Baraka Presente. We will continue to remember New Jersey’s Poet Laureate with a presentation, which was conceived, produced and hosted by The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church on April 5, 2014. WBAI recorded the event with cooperation and permission of The Poetry Project.
“Amiri Baraka at the Poetry Project” was held at St. Mark’s Church on April 5, 2014 and featured tributes to Amiri and readings of his works by several poets and musicians. Among those performing were Toi Derricote, Ammiel Alcalay, Quincy Troupe, Basil King, Martha King, Cornelius Eady and Rough Magic, Greg Tate, Oliver Lake, Julie Patton, David Henderson, Bob Holman, Latasha N Nevada Diggs, Steve Dalachinsky and Matthew Shipp, Tracie Morris and Vijay Iyer, Anne Waldman and Ambrose Bye, Devin Waldman, and Steven Taylor.
We’ll be offering the poetry tribute as a 2-CD set along with a 2011 broadcast of a conversation between Amiri Baraka, Joyce Jones, Hank Williams and and Kazembe Balagun on 2-CDs . The entire 4-CD package is available as a thank you gift for a pledge to WBAI. So pledge for the CD set or simply just donate to WBAI (any amount over $5) if you can, but be sure to join us for what’s sure to be a great show!
Broadcast show produced, engineered, edited, and hosted 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.
Suga in My Bowl thanks The Poetry Project and individual artists for their generosity in allowing us to record the event and their commitment to supporting listener sponsored community radio in New York City. Special thanks goes to Poetry Project Director Stacy Szymaszek and Program Manager Simone White, whose attention to detail and logistical help made the collaboration possible!
Special note: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 is Election Day in Newark, NJ. Poet and Amiri’s son Ras Baraka, whose campaign Amiri dedicated some of his last days on earth working on, is running for mayor. Details are at his campaign website.