Detroit Jazz Legend Geri Allen Dead At 60

Allen was a Cass Tech grad who was considered one of the greatest contemporary jazz pianists

The music world is at a loss for words as we mourn the passing of one of the greatest modern jazz pianists. On Tuesday, Geri Allen passed away at the age of 60 from cancer. She’s survived by her father, brother and three children.

Allen was born in Pontiac and raised in Detroit — and was a proud product of Detroit Public Schools. Allen was a Cass Tech grad who studied under iconic jazz trumpeter Marcus Belgrave and would go on to perform with absolute legends like Ron Carter, Ornette Coleman and Esperanza Spalding.

Vijay Iyer, an internationally known Grammy-nominated composer and pianist who called Allen one of his greatest musical heroes, was blindsided by news of her passing.

“I’ve been obsessed with and influenced directly by her music for 30 years like many other pianists in my generation,” says Iyer. “Geri was a powerful innovator in modern music and a visionary pianist. She was a scholar and historian of African American music, a community builder, a feminist, a deeply committed and big-hearted educator and a quietly determined leader.”

In a 2001 studio recording at WDET, Allen performed and talked about her early days as a student at Cass Tech and how it influenced her over the years. Listen above.


  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host of "In the Groove" on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.