Mary Lou Williams Collective
Geri Allen (born June 12, 1957 in Pontiac, Michigan) is a jazz pianist and music educator from Detroit, Michigan, who has worked with many of the greats of modern jazz, including Dave Holland, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette, Ornette Coleman, Betty Carter and Charles Lloyd. She cites her primary influences to be Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans. She is married to trumpeter Wallace Roney.
Allen received her early jazz education at the famed Cass Technical High School in Detroit, where her mentor was the highly regarded trumpeter/teacher Marcus Belgrave. In 1979, Allen earned her bachelor's degree in jazz studies from Howard University in Washington, D.C. After graduation, she moved to New York City, where she studied with the veteran bop pianist Kenny Barron. From there, at the behest of the jazz educator Nathan Davis, Allen attended the University of Pittsburgh, earning a master's degree in ethnomusicology, returning to New York in 1982. In the mid-'80s, Allen formed an association with the Brooklyn "M-Base" crowd that surrounded alto saxophonist Steve Coleman. Allen played on several of Coleman's albums, including his first, 1985's Motherland Pulse.
Allen's own first album, The Printmakers, with Anthony Cox and Andrew Cyrille, from a year earlier, showcased the pianist's more avant-garde tendencies. In 1988 came perhaps her first mature group statement, Etude, a cooperative trio effort with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian. In 1995, she was the first recipient of Soul Trainís Lady of Soul Award for jazz album of the year for Twenty-One, featuring Tony Williams and Ron Carter. Allen continued to push the improvisational envelope with Sound Museum, a 1996 recording made under the leadership of Ornette Coleman. The solo Gathering followed in 1998. Allen was named the top Talent Deserving Wider Recognition among pianists in the 1993 and 1994 Down Beat magazine Critics' Polls. 2004's The Life of a Song was recorded with veterans Dave Holland on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums.
Geri Allen currently teaches as Associate Professor of Jazz Piano & Improvisation Studies at University of Michigan as well as recording and touring with Charles Lloyd.