Timeless Portraits and Dreams: A Festival/Symposium in Honor of Geri Allen

by Tessil Collins
Monday, Feb 5, 2018

Geri Allen's passing last June at age 60 shocked the jazz world. Allen, a beloved pianist, composer, and educator, was known for her versatility and creativity across every stylistic area of jazz, broadly conceived. The New York Times obituary noted that “Ms. Allen’s style—harmonically refracted and rhythmically complex, but also fluid—formed a bridge between jazz’s halcyon midcentury period and its diffuse present.” 

On February 16-17, 2018 Harvard University's Hutchins Center will host Timeless Portraits and Dreams: A Festival Symposium in Honor of Geri Allen, at Paine Hall 3 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.

WGBH supporters can received early access to tickets to this celebration of Geri's life and music using the promo code "WGBHJAZZ". Tickets for the performances are free and will be available from the Harvard Box Office on February 7, 2018. Panel discussions are first come, first served

Watch Jazz 24/7's live webcast of the Geri Allen Tribute Concert on Saturday, February 17 at 8pm on our WGBH Music Facebook page as well as on the WGBH Jazz 24/7 webcasts page.

Two concerts and two days of panel discussions featuring top musicians and artists who worked with Allen will honor her creative vision, artistic collaborations, and the role she played in establishing the shape of jazz today.

Known for her innovative pianism, solo and trio performances and recordings, original compositions, and keen imagination, Allen also collaborated with a who’s who of musicians from a previous generation. Allen had an expansive aesthetic and believed in allowing the core jazz tradition to interact freely across the full range of African American expressive forms, including Motown and spirituals, experimentalism, and tap dance.

Assembling to honor Allen at Harvard will be a towering line up of today's musicians-- Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington, Vijay Iyer, Jason Moran, Craig Taborn, Don Byron, Oliver Lake, Carmen Lundy, Kenny Davis, Tia Fuller, and Yosvany Terry--who will be featured in two evening concerts. Panel discussions and presentations will take place during the day on Friday and Saturday. Photographer Carrie Mae Weems and actor S. Epatha Merkerson will discuss their collaborations with Allen and colleagues from the Jazz Studies Program at University of Pittsburgh will address Allen's educational vision. Musicians and scholars will share their experiences with Allen and provide a rich account of the history of Allen's musical leadership.

Keynote speaker Professor Farah Griffin of Columbia University will begin the event at the Harvard University Music Building on February 16, 2018 at 12:00 pm. Pianos for Geri, curated by Vijay Iyer and featuring composer-pianists Kris Davis, Craig Taborn, Jason Moran, and Iyer in solo and duo configurations, will take place on Friday February 16 at 8:00 pm at Paine Hall, Harvard Music Building. Saturday evening's concert, Geri: Genius, Grace and Fire, is curated by Terri Lyne Carrington and features Carmen Lundy, Oliver Lake, Don Byron, Kris Davis, Tia Fuller, and Yosvany Terry.

Timeless Portraits and Dreams: A Festival/Symposium in Honor of Geri Allen is organized by Vijay Iyer, Ingrid Monson, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Esperanza Spalding. Cosponsors of the Festival/Symposium include the Jazz Research Initiative of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, the Hutchins Center for African and African American Music, the Music Department, Office of the Provost, the Dean of Arts and Humanities, the Associate Provost for the Arts, and the Office for the Arts, all units at Harvard University.


Jazz drummer/composer Jeff “Tain” Watts was the Office for the Arts Fall 2017 Artist in Residence. 

During the weeklong residency with the jazz bands at Harvard in November, Watts offered two public events:

A conversation and clinic with Jeff “Tain” Watts, with live music provided by students in the Harvard Monday Jazz Band including drummer Ethan Kripke ’20, trumpet player Miranda Agnew '21, vocalist Claire Dickson ’19 and guitarist Evan Vietorisz ’20. This event is presented by Learning from Performers. 
Jeff “Tain” Watts in Concert with the Harvard Jazz Bands was also presented.
The residency is presented by the Office for the Arts Learning from Performers program with the Harvard Jazz Bands, under the leadership of Yosvany Terry and Mark Olson.  
Jazz on the Plaza, featuring the Harvard Jazz Band and Yosvany Terry Quintet - Sunday April 30, 2017

Grammy-nominated saxophonist/composer Yosvany Terry directed the Harvard student “Monday” Big Band in a program featuring compositions of such celebrated jazz masters as Herbie Hancock and Joe Henderson and showcased his powerhouse Quintet from New York:

Yosvany Terry, alto & soprano saxophones, chekeré; Michael Rodriquez, trumpet; Osmany Paredes, piano; Yunior Terry Cabrera, bass; Ludwig Afonso, drums.

Jazz 24/7 webcast this very special event that you can watch here.

Cassandra Wilson has been named Harvard University Jazz Master in Residence. Ms. Wilson is a musician, vocalist, songwriter, and producer from Jackson, Mississippi who incorporates blues, country and folk music into her work.

Named the 2017 Jazz Master in Residence at Harvard sponsored by the Office for the Arts at Harvard (OFA) and Harvard Jazz Bands (Yosvany Terry and Mark Olson, conductors), Wilson rehearsed and performed with the Jazz Bands, visit Harvard classes and an assembly for students at a Greater Boston public school, and participate in two events open to the public:

On Wednesday, April 5, A Conversation with Cassandra Wilsonwas moderated by Ingrid Monson, Quincy Jones Professor of African American Music, at the Leverett House Library Theatre. On Saturday, April 8, the “Women in Jazz” concert featured the Harvard Jazz Bands with special guest Cassandra Wilson, at Sanders Theatre, 


On Tuesday, March 7, 2017the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research presented a Performance with Angélique Kidjo - Dahomey Dance - How Rhythms and Songs Travelled from Benin to the Americas in the Horner Room, Agassiz House, Radcliffe Institute, 5 James Street, Cambridge, MA. This event was webcast by Jazz 24/7.


Harvard University celebrated jazz composer and pianist, Randy Weston’s Archive at Harvard with a conversation with Professor Ingrid Monson and historian Robin D. G. Kelley, and ended with a performance by Weston and his African Rhythms Quintet on Nov. 9, 2016, 7pm in Agassiz Hall Theater, 5 James Street, Cambridge, MA.   

The concert webcast can be seen here.

The conversation can be seen on the WGBH Forum Network.

89.7's Eric Jackson got to speak with Mr. Weston about his life and music.


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Dena DeRose, “the most creative and compelling singer-pianist since Shirley Horn” (Joel Siegel, Washington City Paper), was in residence at Harvard University October 30-November 5, 2016, sponsored by the Office for the Arts at Harvard’s Learning From Performers program and Harvard Jazz Bands (Yosvany Terry and Mark Olson, conductors). In addition to working and rehearsing with the Harvard Jazz Bands, DeRose visited classes and participated in two events open to the public.


Jazz 24/7's Tessil Collins got to speak with Ms. DeRose about her career and residency.

For more information about Office for the Arts events - Click Here.


Jazz Happening Around Boston from Jazz 24/7 Partners






OFA at Harvard


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