Geri Allen


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Geri Allen's star had fully risen by 1992 with the release of this potpourri of tracks reflecting various aspects of her recording career and peeking at the future. Detroit mentor Marcus Belgrave appears on two tracks, while trumpeter and husband Wallace Roney is on the remainder of the ensemble selections -- and he has shed the Miles Davis clone visage, striking his own poses and shadings. There are also several trio or quartet tracks with different drummers and bassists, as Allen revisits older material and adds to her widening repertoire with new compositions, always with the ingenious, virtuosic, and spontaneous style that makes her one of the most interesting players in modern post-McCoy Tyner jazz. A remake of "No More Mr. Nice Guy" (done with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian on In the Year of the Dragon) is rendered a bit faster here with bassist Dwayne Dolphin and drummer Tani Tabbal, but retains its elusive, cryptic quality. There are three versions of "Feed the Fire" as preludes -- one with hand percussionists Tabbal and Pheeroan akLaff; one with them and twin bassists Dwayne Dolphin and Anthony Cox; and a third with Allen, Dolphin, and Tabbal -- and all are very energetic and probing, with drum solos or bop notions inserted. The best trio track is "Bed-Sty" with Dolphin and Tabbal, a steamrolling, head-nodding piece, swimming in the spontaneous improvisations only Allen can conjure on the spot. Of the cuts featuring the emerging personal voice of Roney's trumpet, "Mad Money" is all about the insane drive for the Benjamins, deliberate and clipped in its modal melody, but moving right into Allen's clever solo. "And They Partied" has the contemporary funky M-Base approach with a bit of an inebriated, sauced line from Roney, while the title selection is totally in an underground mood, with the trumpeter evincing voodoo tones but quite unlike Miles Davis. Allen and Belgrave play a jaunty, lyrical duet on the Lawrence Williams composition "Number Four" as a tribute to their Detroit home base, while the two trumpeters join forces for "Dolphy's Dance," an angular, scattered post-bop melody that has future standard written all over it. Because of the variety of groupings, ever-changing and chameleonic through this program, it makes for a remarkable listening session from beginning to end. Dressed in elegant Victorian period clothing in the artwork, Allen seems to suggest that her past is as important as her present -- yet Maroons still exists in modern times, and she refuses to be stuck in old habits while reaching for new vistas, standing solidly on terra firma. This excellent recording is easily recommended to her fans and potential new devotees.

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