Geri Allen, an influential pianist and educator whose dense but agile playing reconciled far-flung elements of the jazz tradition, died on Tuesday at a hospital in Philadelphia. She was 60.
The cause was cancer, said Maureen McFadden, Ms. Allen’s publicist.
Perhaps more than any other pianist, Ms. Allen’s style — harmonically refracted and rhythmically complex, but laden with inertia — formed a bridge between jazz’s halcyon midcentury period and its stylistically diffuse present.
She accomplished this by holding some things constant: a farsighted approach to the piano, which she used to both guide and goad her bandmates; an ability to fit into a range of scenarios without warping her own sound; and a belief that jazz ought to maintain contact with its kindred art forms across the African-American tradition.
Reviewing a performance by Ms. Allen’s trio in 2011, Nate Chinen wrote in The New York Times: “Her brand of pianism, assertive and soulful, has long suggested a golden mean of major postwar styles. She just as easily deploys the slipstream whimsy of Herbie Hancock, the earthy sweep of McCoy Tyner and the swarming agitation of Cecil Taylor.”
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