WBGO Radar

Geri Allen: Grand River Crossings

Geri Allen

Geri Allen went home this Labor Day weekend for the Detroit Jazz Festival, held every year in her hometown. She played a piano duet with Danilo Perez, and led an all-star group of Motor City expatriates, The Detroit Homecoming Band.

Truth is, Geri never really left home. On every record she makes, and on every stage, every night, the sense memory of the corridors of Cass Technical appears.

Cass is the magnet high school where Allen and other musical giants, who include Ron and Regina Carter, Donald Byrd, Kenny Burrell, Paul Chambers, Gerald Wilson,  Alice Coltrane, Dorothy Ashby, Ali Jackson and Diana Ross, first developed.

Geri says, “From Gerald Wilson to Stevie Wonder, my Motor City and Motown inspirations are love songs, full of joy and pain; songs of human struggle, with striking lyrics and sheer poetry."

With this album, mostly a solo effort, she draws on the poetry of Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, and interprets it with the passion of her playing, which reminds the listener just how powerful these songs we first heard on the radio really are.

Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, another Detroit native who has been a big influence on Allen and many others, adds to her explorations, particularly on his own composition "Space Odyssey" and Gerald Wilson's "Nancy Jo." 

Saxophonist David McMurray wonderfully displays the “itching in his heart” for a Holland-Dozier-Holland standard.  There are some Allen originals here, and even a remembrance of how Aretha couldn't let be the music of the Beatles.

Historically, Detroit put cars on the road, and put the music in those cars that often made us miss our exit. It's all right with me, and it's just right with Geri Allen. 

           - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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