Geri Allen Premieres New Work

By
Elisabeth Nicula
February 9, 2009
Geri Allen
Geri Allen at the 2008 Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival
Photo by Phil Farnsworth

Pianist, composer, and educator Geri Allen will present the world premiere of her solo piano work "Refractions, Flying Toward the Sound" at the Berklee Performance Center at 8:15 p.m. on Thursday, February 26. Allen received a Guggenheim Fellowship to create this composition, which celebrates the humanity and embraces the continuity of innovation in jazz, as personified by three revolutionary pianist/composers: Herbie Hancock, Cecil Taylor, and McCoy Tyner. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for seniors. For ticket information, call 617 747-2261 or visit berkleebpc.com.

The show is part of the series Jazz as Culture, Language, Being, and Music presented by Berklee's Africana Studies/Music and Society initiative. Piano Department professor Danilo Peréz will interview Allen after her performance.

About "Refractions," Allen explains that "jazz is a music of continuity and a direct outgrowth of the spirit of a people who rose, thrived, and innovated in spite of impossible odds. My new music will speak to freedom. Just as light passes through a prism and emerges in a new direction, I will allow the music of Taylor, Tyner, and Hancock to pass through me, in the hope that my new work will emerge at a different angle through the prism of my compositional imagination." The piece will appear on Allen's upcoming CD release for Motema Records.

Guggenheim Fellowships are awarded to those who have demonstrated exceptional creative ability in the arts. Allen's accomplishments are many and varied. As a composer and pianist, she has appeared in concert at venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to the Village Vanguard to numerous international jazz festivals. She has collaborated with jazz greats including Charlie Haden, Ornette Coleman, Jack DeJohnette, and Wayne Shorter, and has also been sought out by a diverse group of artists such as Marianne Faithfull, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Ravi Coltrane. 

As an educator, Allen is presently an associate professor of jazz and contemporary improvisation at the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theater and Dance. She is a sought-after guest artist who has recently held residencies at Spelman College, Harvard University, and Columbia University.

"As a working mother of three children," Allen says the Guggenheim Fellowship "encourages me, and will give me the freedom to create what I hope will be my best work.... Every artist dreams of the chance to freely create, unimpeded."