Tributes Pour In To The Carr Center To Remember and Reflect On
Artistic Director And Jazz Great Geri Allen
“We all recognize how fortunate we were to have Geri as the Carr Center Artistic Director,,,
if only for a season.” Oliver Ragsdale, Jr., president, The Carr Center
On Tuesday, June 27, 2017, the world lost music legend Geri Allen, the Detroit native and Cass Technical High School graduate who reached the highest pinnacle of international distinction as a pianist, bandleader, educator and role model for other musicians; especially female jazz artists.
Geri Allen became Artistic Director of the Carr Center in 2016. To have this global music icon accept the invitation to be the first artistic director is the highest honor the Carr Center could receive. “The Carr Center was fortunate to have an artist of Geri Allen’s caliber to be its first Artistic Director. Bringing her back home to Detroit last year is unsurpassed in terms of what it meant to the city she loved and that loved her,” said Carr Center president, Oliver Ragsdale, Jr.
Geri’s vision for the Carr Center was steeped in her passion and commitment to arts programming excellence that would continue to build the organization and its connections to the communities served. As the Carr Center Artistic Director, Geri brought French percussionist Mino Cinelu and legendary songstress Dee Dee Bridgewater to perform showcasing the highest caliber of international and national artists she touched. In April, she brought Brinae Ali back to Michigan for the infusion of tap dance, hip-hop and jazz. This was Geri’s last performance for the Carr Center and her last performance in Detroit.
Reflecting on being the first Artistic Director for the Carr Center, Ms. Allen stated, “I am thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with the Carr Center, a very key institution that has maintained an important role in accessing our cultural history in Detroit. It is the only institution of its kind in the city and it has made a difference.”
Mark Stryker, music critic at the Detroit Free Press, 1995-2016, states, “Geri’s death is devastating news not only for her family, friends and the wider jazz community but also for Detroit, where she was revered as a contemporary embodiment of the city's rich jazz legacy and a musician who took extraordinary pride in her local roots. She was one of the first and most important young musicians to come up under the wing of trumpeter and legendary mentor Marcus Belgrave. Geri drew strength and inspiration from her hometown during her entire career, and just last year took on the role of artistic director of the Carr Center, a downtown Detroit arts organization that primarily champions African-American culture and has a strong arts education program. Geri saw her appointment as coming full circle, a way she could give back to the community that had nurtured her. It gave Detroiters one more reason to love her — not that anyone here needed another reason.”
“Geri Allen, will always be with us. The world-renowned pianist, educator and global ambassador of jazz music brought her creative genius to the Carr Center. She will continue to have a tremendous impact and influence on the work of the Carr Center. Her music, teachings and passion for the arts and people will be shared for generations. Our prayers are with her family,” said Ragsdale.
The Carr Center Family Reflects On Jazz Legend Geri Allen
Her University of Michigan Students:
“This loss comes as a great shock. Professor Allen left an indelible impact on Detroit and the jazz community at large. She brought her nurturing presence to all of her students. I and many others are grateful to have learned from such a legend.” Michael Malis
“Geri Allen was not only a musical pioneer of the highest order but an incredibly nurturing, supportive, and attentive teacher and mentor. She will continue to be a central role model for me as a musician and scholar but more importantly as a human being.” Glenn Tucker
“Professor Allen was an enormously influential and nurturing teacher as well as an amazing performer. It was always a blessing to hear her play as well as learn from her for five years. She helped students find their own individual creative paths by studying the masters that came before us.” Ian Finkelstein
“We met when Geri was a young, high school protégé of Marcus Belgrave, and reconnected at Howard University. For 45 years I've had the privilege of being a friend, a fan and a presenter of her music. I'm grateful Geri lived so large, from Cass Tech to Howard, to the world. And that her quiet depth and creative mastery remain in her numerous recordings and will continue through the many hundreds of students and fellow musicians who each carry a part of her legacy.” Njia Kai, Performing Arts Consultant, Detroit MI
“Geri Allen was a revered member of our jazz department for ten years. She was our musical, intellectual and spiritual lodestar and constantly reminded us, in her quiet and dignified way, how to live life with the highest level of integrity possible. She inculcated our faculty and students with a reverence and passion for jazz tradition but was a shining example of how to respect the great masters and all that has come before while searching for a unique and deeply personal means of self-expression that was rooted in modern day society. She was a champion of social justice, a relentless advocate for jazz education and a constantly inspiring mentor to all her students. We all loved her and are devastated by her loss. Her spirit will live on in her music, students, musical and academic colleagues and of course her beautiful children. The world has lost a shining star.“ Ellen Rowe, Chair, Jazz Studies, School of Music Theatre & Dance, University of Michigan
“Maestro Geri Allen was one of the guiding lights of the international jazz scene for the last 30-40 years. Her tremendous musicality sensitivity was unmatched. She was one of the greatest composers to ever live and definitely one of the greatest heroes of the music. There is a void now that cannot be replaced.” Rodney Whitaker, Director of Jazz Studies, Michigan State University and Carr Center Resident Artist
“So gifted and extraordinary, Geri leaves us with a great musical legacy to cherish. For more than four decades, I've watched her talents elevate from mentorship to mastership. She has left us far too soon.” Bill Foster, Jazz Network Foundation