Saturday, September 02, 2006

Soul Eyes, Geri Allen

One of the best all time jazz ballads is Mal Waldron's Soul Eyes. I'm currently listening to Geri Allen's version from her 2004 release The Life of a Song, but in my head I hear Coltrane, especially over the first chorus, before Marcus Belgrave comes in. (I have a chart from an old fake book, but actually I learned it by playing along with Coltrane's recording, so even when I'm using the chart I hear Coltrane.) I've treated "Soul Eyes" as an "intense ballad" à la Mingus, but it also works as a straight jazz ballad. The changes are really sweet.

Geri Allen has been on my radar for about two decades, because the first time I heard her I knew she had a radical sense of time and a powerful urgency in her left hand. Her adventures in odd time signatures sounded both sure and edgy at once. The Life of a Song is a more traditional piano trio outing, with Dave Holland on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. (Incidentally, DeJohnette must be a much better drummer than I give him credit for, because whenever I hear him he's in good company and he's solid.) Allen's sense of swing is remarkable on the standards "Lush Life" and "Dance of the Infidels," but these tunes don't stand out so much the way her original compositions do. They do point to where Allen is coming from, suggesting paths, arcs, crazy directions. The original tune "The Life of a Song" may also serve that way, as a gentle introduction to Allen's angularity. And isn't she sounding a lot like McCoy Tyner on this recording?

And the moment passes. Now I'm off on a Junko Onishi kick--man, nobody goes all Mingusoidal on the piano like Onishi. Those old Blue Note cd's may be a bit rare if Amazon is to be believed. I'm going to try placing an order from Double-Time soon enough--they also have a few Geri Allen cds at reasonable prices.

posted by Fido the Yak at 10:48 AM.


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