Motéma Music is proud to release celebrated pianist-composer-bandleader Geri Allen‘s new album, Grand River Crossings: Motown and Motor City Inspirations. The recording marks Allen’s fourth for the label and third in a trilogy of solo recordings beginning with the 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship project, Flying Toward the Sound, followed by her spiritual Christmas exploration, A Child is Born in 2011, and culminating this year with Grand River Crossings.
Named for the major thoroughfare near her childhood home in Detroit, Grand River Crossings is a highly personal reflection on an influential time and place in America – a cultural crossroads – with Motown at the center of it all.
Allen’s first recollection of exposure to the Motown sound was at age seven when she heard Marvin Gaye’s and Gladys Knight’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” and other hits on WCHB and WJLB Soul Radio the music clearly had a profound effect on the young girl. Allen states: “The music and the poetry still blows my mind each time I hear it. Marvin Gaye was a brilliant improviser. You can see and hear his sensibility, open fearlessness and soulful beauty on songs like ‘What’s Going On’, the iconic Civil Rights Anthem. The music continues to connect to our lives today as though it were just recorded yesterday.” Sighting many critical and historical flashpoints in the history of African American culture, Allen notes that Berry Gordy’s Motown Records produced an anthology of hits and, more importantly, a soundtrack for a generation. That soundtrack includes the work of those who are now known as some of the most influential artists of the 20th Century-Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, the Contours, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Junior Walker & The All-Stars, among others.
On this recording, Allen carefully crafts a collection of songs into something truly personal. Compositions by NEA Jazz Master Gerald Wilson, Detroit drum legend Roy Brooks and Allen’s mentor Marcus Belgrave, the great trumpeter Jazz Master Laureate of Detroit, who is the last living original member of the Ray Charles Band, along with Allen’s own compositions, sit comfortably next to known anthems and pop hits. Allen’s musical performance ties together the choices of repertoire she lovingly culled from the classic Motown & Motor City Songbook and in doing so, she further stakes her claim as one of a long lineage of Motor City artists whom have contributed to the fabric of music history. This list includes iconic composer, bandleader, trumpeter and Cass Tech alumnus Gerald Wilson, who is represented on the album’s closing track titled, “Nancy Jo.” On Grand River Crossings, Allen deftly merges and integrates genres- from classic to the modern, from spirituals to the blues and beyond creating a one-of-a kind listening experience.
Fellow Detroit Cass Tech High School classmate, Greg Phillinganes, the celebrated producer and musical director, writes in the liner notes for Grand River Crossings: “through a body of work spanning many albums, Geri has become a force of nature with this, her latest offering.” He continues by saying, “Welcome to the ‘New Classical’ music…”