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Geri Allen (1957 - 2017)

Getty Images / Erika Goldring

Geri Allen (1957 - 2017)

Geri Allen, an influential jazz pianist and composer, died Tuesday, June 27, 2017, according to NPR. She was 60.

The cause was cancer, said Ora Harris, her manager of 30 years. She died in Philadelphia.

Allen was born June 12, 1957, in Pontiac, Michigan, and raised in Detroit. She studied music at Cass Technical High School in Detroit and then at the Jazz Development Workshop under Marcus Belgrave. She earned a degree in jazz studies from Howard University and then a master’s in ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1982.

Allen moved to New York City and toured with Mary Wilson, the former member of the Supremes. In the mid-1980s, she became a charter member of Brooklyn’s M-Base movement. M-Base was a loose collective of talented young musicians that included Cassandra Wilson, Steve Coleman, and Greg Osby. She became the keyboardist in the funk group Steve Coleman and Five Elements.

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Allen recorded her debut album in Germany in 1985. The album, called “The Printmakers,” featured the Geri Allen Trio of Allen, Anthony Cox, and Andrew Cyrille. She released several albums in subsequent years.

In 1995, Allen was the first recipient of Soul Train’s Lady of Soul Award for jazz album of the year for “Twenty-One,” featuring Ron Carter. She recorded with legendary jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman in 1996.

Allen’s 2010 album, “Flying Toward the Sound,” was rated the ninth best of the year in the Village Voice’s Jazz Critic’s Poll. Her 2013 album, “Grand River Crossings: Motown & Motor City Inspirations,” paid tribute to the city in which she was raised.

For the past four years, Allen had been the director of jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh. She toured Europe earlier this year with the legendary jazz pianist McCoy Tyner.

Allen is survived by her father; her brother, Mount Allen III; and three children, Laila Deen, Wallace Vernell, and Barbara Ann.

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