Geri Allen's Flying Toward the Sound

Geri Allen’s new album, Flying Toward the Sound (Motema Music), is a stunner. She calls it “a solo piano excursion inspired by Cecil Taylor, McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock.” In jazz pianists’ lingo, this is like Babe Ruth pointing to a spot in right-center field. And she slugs the ball out of the park.

Lots of “free” pianists have copied Hancock’s Ravelian tone-clusters, pounded out Tyner’s block chords, or mad-dashed about the keyboard like Taylor. But few (any?) have captured the balletic limber—the acrobatic joy—of this music, much less transmuted it into his or her own voice and rhythms.

Allen does this here. And her voice is at once adventurous and accessible.

I’ve been listening to Geri Allen since the mid-1980s, soon after she helped found the M-Base Collective, a group of Brooklyn-based musicians seeking to fuse jazz with urban rock and funk in new ways.

It didn’t take her long to move out from those roots. I first saw her live, playing a Mary Lou Williams solo-tribute concert at the Smithsonian. Soon after, she was co-leading record dates with the likes of Charlie Haden and Paul Motian (Etudes, Live at the Village Vanguard, Segments, and one of Haden’s Montreal Tapes sessions), Ron Carter and Tony Williams (Twenty One), and Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette (The Life of a Song, the best jazz album Telarc ever released). Ornette Coleman almost never plays with pianists, but on one of the few occasions when he did, he chose Allen to play along. (The resulting album, Sound Museum: Three Women, ranks among his half-dozen best.)

The point is, you can tell a lot about jazz musicians by who chooses to keep their company, and Allen, who’s now 53, has long attracted a fair number from the top echelon.

But soloing is something else, and she takes the art well beyond what many might expect of her. The sound quality is also superb: liquid and percussive. Get this, listen closely, and hang on tight.

Scott Atkinson's picture

I can't wait to hear this. I would put "Etudes" up against any album from that era, but somehow didn't follow Allen through most of the music she made after.s.

Trent's picture

Thanks for the heads up on this Album. I imagine if you were a pianist, this might mess with you head a little! She's got four arms right?

Trent's picture

Just a heads up thanks, you might like this.

Jrmandude's picture

Another great musician from Detroit! This is a wonderful album.

Jim Luce's picture

Thank you for the review of this amazing pianist.As the engineer for this project, I sat back in awe as the music unfolded. We used a simple but extreme quality recording chain to get the nth degree of nuance out of the mighty Fazioli pianos at Klavierhaus in New York. Sennheiser. Grace. Korg Box.The project was mastered at Duke Markos Audio in New York.For those who prefer vinyl as we often do, we are working on a 180gram vinyl release in the fall.Jim

Fred Kaplan's picture

Jim Luce - Good news about the pending 180g vinyl. Please keep me posted on its release date. Contact me at