Timeless Portraits : Friday

We who love contemporary jazz have been mourning the death of Geri Allen (1958-2018). Yet Geri Allen was always emerging, adding new dimensions. And it’s still true. Earlier this month at Harvard University, a free and open festival/symposium entitled Timeless Portraits gave time and space to celebrate her music, life, spirit and legacy. My friend Ingrid Monson was a conference organizer and I happily attended.

Keynote speaker Farah Jasmine Griffin, scholar and Columbia University Professor, wrote the notes for Allen’s Flying Toward the Sound solo piano album (Motéma 2010). The visual artwork came from Carrie Mae Weems who – later in the day, accompanied by Esperanza Spalding on bass and Terri Lyne Carrington on drums – presented her still images and video of Geri. Flight is a metaphor for freedom, Griffin said. “Where Geri led, love and beauty followed.”

Panelists Jason Moran, Craig Taborn, Kris Davis and Vijay Iyer (left to right) addressed the topic of Geri Allen and the Piano. My notes contain their confessions – “I am fully influenced by,” “very directly,” “I have plagiarized” – and descriptive phrases for musical selections that they played for us – “as though she has three hands!” “flip[s] a phrase,” “wastes no time,” “she’s dancing!”

Excerpted at this panel: “Lonely Woman” from Etudes (Charlie Haydn, Paul Motian, Allen, Soul Note 1987), “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” from Allen’s Grand River Crossings (Motéma 2012), “Skin” from Twylight (Minor Music 1989).

At the night-time concert in Paine Hall, each pianist played alone and in duets with the other three. Practically no words were spoken. Jason Moran’s unbound interpretation of “Life Every Voice and Sing” made me think of war, of Syria. Of how Geri Allen – so self-possessed – made emotional and powerful music. Kris Davis and Craig Taborn concluded with Davis’s transcription of “Black Man” ( from Home Grown 1985). On paper Davis uses three staves, as though Allen is playing with three hands. “You hear her hands,” Vijay Iyer said, “… hear that mind at work” in Taborn’s phrase.

I do not have the Friday night set list. And the sequence of pianists alone then in duets is a brain teaser. Please, someone, send it! I will share.

In the next post, I’ll start with Saturday, February 17, 8:30am, the Symposium, Geri Allen as Scholar and Educator.

A Geri Allen discography is here.

Timeless Portraits : Honoring Geri Allen

Members of Geri’s community gathered at Harvard University to appreciate her as pianist and collaborator, scholar and educator, visionary and historical figure and more. The symposium agenda is here.

The Friday night concert, Pianos for Geri, featured four players, one and two at a time. Voices and instruments expanded the sound on Saturday for Geri: Genus, Grace and Fire. Set lists to come.

Great thanks to organizer Ingrid Monson and her colleagues – Terri Lyne Carrington, Vijay Iyer, Esperanza Spalding – and all who participated.

I’ll share some notes soon.

My report about Gender and Identity in Jazz at the Jazzinstitut Darmstadt is now online at downbeat.com

It’s posted, as of last week, with this photo …

Wolfram Knauer and Sherrie Tucker (U of Kansas)

Wolfram Knauer directs the Jazzinstitut Darmstadt, and Sherrie Tucker is American Studies Professor, University of Kansas. Happily, they opened the conference. I love these additional photos, also by Wilfried Heckmann.

Martin Niederauer photo by Wilfried Heckmann

Viewing this image, Martin Niederauer (Male Hegemony in Jazz) explained his gesture: “…[C]ompeting against each other and trying to establish hierarchies does not push the competitors away from each other. Rather, they are getting closer and are tied to each other.” Martin is a scholar at University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Institute for Music Sociology.

Based at the University of Pittsburgh, Yoko Suzuki has  interviewed  dozens of women  – especially saxophonists – about their New York jam session experiences. Yoko delivered some conclusions from her research, then she jammed in the ancient, lovely stone cellar below the Jazzinstitut, the largest public jazz collection in Europe.

Yoko Suzuki at the jam session

You can see Wilfried Heckmann’s jazz photography at Jazz-vision.de. And read the full downbeat.com story here.

Here’s my parting shot of an office in the library. I like the vibe.

And this is my shot of an office at the Jazzinstitut ..

And note this: TODAY Oct 26 is the release date of the complete Life and Art of Jutta Hipp from Be! Jazz Records (Germany). Thanks to  presenter and saxophonist Ilona Haberkamp, who teaches at Ernst-Barlach-Gymnasium, Castrop-Rauxel, for her dedicated work about pianist JH, who would be 90 this year.

Screen shot 2015-10-26 at 1.20.11 PM

Dachau visit

The gate says Work makes you free
The gate says Work makes you free

There is a detailed museum. One can see photos and read names and  synopses of individual prisoners — Jewish, Polish, some Spanish civil war fighters who then fought in Germany, Czechs, Hungarians, the nameless Russian prisoners of war. priests, Jehovah’s witnesses. Men were imprisoned there, not women. Eventually thousands upon thousands of prisoners of both sexes, all nationalities including Dutch, were sent into factories to work as slaves — BMW and Agfa included, also Zeppelin.  FInally the liberation  came on April 29-May 1, 1945. Upon entry Americans documented the scene by taking color motion pictures, and later forced the townspeople to walk through the camp. Most of the barracks are gone, just rectangles in the ground now. Ten meters x 100 meters. In orderly rows. Built originally to hold 6,000 but at the end held so many more that I can’t remember the scale. Diabolical, recent and bitter


A welcome in Bodinsee, a yoga class in Bobingen

Olivier and Nicole of Zur Winzer Stube Hotel in Hagnau
Olivier and Nico of Zur Winzer Stube Hotel in Hagnau

As we approached our destination on Lake Bodinsee between Germany and Switzerland, it was raining and dark, very dark. We called ahead to the Hotel Zur Winzerstube to say we are late and we are lost. Olivier answered and, though I could not understand his directions, his encouragement came through in the words “We are here for you.” When we got there, he welcomed us with two glasses of champagne. In the morning Nico was equally helpful and encouraging. Memorable people! And there are more to come.

Heike Farkas and Patti Anderson at Integral Yoga in Bobingen
Heike Farkas and Patti Anders at Integral Yoga in Bobingen

At 5:30 in the evening, we were waiting in the parking lot at Integral Yoga Zentrum Augsburg-Bobingen for Heike Farkas and her yoga class . In August I had written to Heike to inquire about talong a class at the center, but then confirmed nothing. We just showed up. She was surprised! In our honor she taught a bilingual class and a beautiful one. I hope I can remember some of her variations. We were hungry! So her student Catherine led us to Mai Mai, a Vietnamese restaurant on the edge of town with a spicy and crispy menu. Then we drove back to our room above and behind a Biergarten in a much smaller town 50 km west of Munich. What an unusual day!


Black Forest, Alsace

Fall colors noted Oct 6
Fall colors noted in Colmar, Oct 6

Today, Tuesday, we left Durbach in (or near) the Black Forest and drove first to Colmar. Patti’s friend said we must see the Isenheim altar piece, 16th century paintings in the Unter Linden Museum in in Colmar. These paintings are temporarily living in the Dominican Church there. They are amazing! And so are the Madonna in the Rosebush and other paintings by Martin Schongauer from the 1400s.


Then  Patti navigated – in a juggle that required both our phones – and I drove over an Alp in a rainstorm and down to Lake Bodensee in the dark. There were some reversals toward the end but here we are in the nicest room! Chilling.