Geri Allen

The Life of a Song

Telarc Jazz CD-83598

Geri Allen, piano; Dave Holland, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums

Like the Saxophone Summit, pianist Geri Allen has moved to Telarc Jazz, an audiophile & middle of the road (Ray Brown,Oscar Peterson,Andre Previn) record company that supports it's artists with state-of-the-art sound and a large budget for publicity. In Downbeat's October 2004 issue the Saxophone Summit's John Coltrane tribute appears on the front cover with a 6 page story on their Telarc recording project plus a few pages of ads, certainly more coverage than Coltrane himself ever received!

Geri Allen's Telarc debut is called The Life of a Song, one of the eight Allen originals that grace this recording, along with Jazz standards by Billy Strayhorn, Bud Powell and Mal Waldron.Allen's cohorts are Dave Holland, bass and Jack DeJohnette, drums, a better rhythm section thou shalt not find. The album art is absolutely stunning with a lush turquoise, sorry I mean teal theme including Ms. Allen's clothes. Unlike many female Jazz artists (especially singers) Allen doesn't have to "show a little skin" to sell herself. She looks straight at us on the cover, quite determined and quite beautiful.

In the same issue of Downbeat as the Saxophone Summit, Geri receives a half page ad which states "Allen's Telarc debut is an adventurous yet acessible celebration....." Acessible?" Uh oh, it's the "A" word.Just say acessible. Do you notice how smoothly it rolls off your tongue? So the question becomes who's going to get their way, the artist or the record company? Think about it, this is the Geri Allen who was Ornette Coleman's only pianist since his debut recording in 1958, The Dave Holland of "Conference of the Birds" and the Jack DeJohnette of Special Edition.Three of the most accomplished and far-reaching spirits in Jazz.

I'm happy to tell you that Telarc doesn't crush Allen's creativity in search of "product". Telarc is a class act and I'm sure Allen wouldn't stand for being censored in any way. She's always been 100% true to her art. On the other hand the listener would have a hard time identifiying this trio in a blindfold test. The playing and interplay are as good as it gets. The compositions and arrangements are artful and very listenable. Pushing the envelope? No. Acessible? Yes. My advice to you is to forget the past and enjoy this perfect production (in every way). You can think about the past after you put this recording on your shelf under the letter "A".

by David Heymann

Jazz Now Interactive November 2004 Vol 14 No. 7 - Table of Contents

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