We just lost one of the guiding lights in the jazz world – pianist/ composer/ educator Geri Allen. Just two weeks after her 60th birthday the announcement of her cancer-related passing sent shock waves throughout the jazz world and beyond. Even though her cancer was diagnosed a good year ago, she kept the illness completely private and continued touring and teaching all over the world. Appearances at major festivals including the North Sea Jazz Festival were announced throughout August and not even her record label was aware of her health battle. What kept her going to the last minute? The love for the music and the need to provide for her three children – a mother’s duty. Some of the obituaries called her a female Herbie Hancock. She was our SHero in so many regards – an outstanding musician, a historian, a nurturer, rather than a female version of someone else – here is her tune Nurturer. She was also my birth date sister, born on June 12 – in so many regards an inspiration for me beyond the musical genius of Herbie Hancock. I got to chat with her several times – always soft-spoken and friendly and humble and encouraging. My sense is that beyond the jazz lovers, her name was not as well-known as it deserves, certainly not as well as Herbie Hancock’s name. Here she talks about her career just a year ago. That was not due to musical abilities – being humble, nurturing, eclectic in interests and activities, female, and taking care of three children are not traits that get rewarded with popularity but make the deepest impact on all of us. Thank you for being a role model to many of us, we will honor your memory!
“Seeing these women created a place for me to see myself in.” (Geri Allen, Syncup Interview 2016, about the importance of her role models)