Jazz is often unfairly maligned for being stuck in the past. The new jazz sounds coming out of London are getting most of the credit for taking jazz into the future, but in reality, the path was already being cleared well before now.
Take Geri Allen, for example. The late jazz pianist reconciled jazz’s far-flung styles for decades. She was able to do this by toggling between different jazz artistic styles—whether by being one of the first pianists since the 1950s to make a commercial recording with free-jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman; by paving the way for experimentalists like Vijay Iyer; or more recently, by forming an all-female trio with drum prodigy Terri Lyne Carrington and local Grammy award-winning artist Esperanza Spalding.
For this special night of jazz taking place on Thursday, February 22 at the Newmark Theatre, the surviving members of the trio, Carrington and Spalding, will team up with a legend in his own right, Ravi Coltrane, and local pianist Darrell Grant to pay tribute to Allen.
When Geri Allen passed away from cancer in the summer of 2017, it was a tragic loss for the entire jazz community, as she has had such an outsized impact over the last three decades, but it especially hit the Portland jazz community hard because she had left such a mark on the PDX Jazz Festival. In 2013, the trio of Carrington, Spalding and Allen made their debut at the festival, and in 2016, Allen was part of a tribute to Alice Coltrane.
I sat in the front row during that show, which included Ravi Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Brandee Younger among others, and I remember being thoroughly blown away by Allen’s performance. It's apparent that she too found the night to be incredibly special as Mr. Coltrane’s appearance in this upcoming tribute is at her request.
I have no doubts that this tribute will be one of the most special and touching moments in PDX jazz this year and a proper send-off for this giant of jazz. It will be well worth your time and money to attend.