Gerri Allen Timeless Portraits and Dreams

New jazz diva status be damned. Pianist Gerri Allen has moved beyond her forays with drummer Paul Motian and bassist Charlie Haden to a "statement” worthy of her formidable skills as a composer and instrumentalist. With bassist Ron Carter at the helm of her ambitious outing with husband/trumpeter Wallace Roney and Atlanta Jazz Chorus, this recording documents her striving beyond the "glass ceiling” of talented jazz pianists. Her work with Wayne Shorter and Ornette Coleman be damned, too; Allen has a voice of her own. But expectations are not easily thwarted. What could have been a remake of Duke Ellington’s sacred music concerts is turned into a highly personal and unique statement of belief in her culture and the "higher power” guiding its aspirations. Her use of voices, beyond the expected "gospelacious” wide-vibrato-isations of her ambitious theme, is panoramic, giving her themes majesty beyond the clichéd church choir matrix. Voices are used orchestral, producing an encompassing string-section spaciousness. Allen’s angular lyricism, full of unusual turns of phrase and melodic direction, is somewhat muted, given the overall weight of her material. But her Bach-like treatment of Charlie Parker’s "Ah-Leu-Cha” dispels any fears that she might be compromising her highly personal voice. Nevertheless, her playing is markedly less adventurous than on her smaller group outings, both more conventional in its harmonies and its melodic trajectory. That said, Gerri Allen has much to say in this more restrictive but more grandly textured setting. (Telarc)