Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts will present Geri Allen & Timeline, a group that has gained standing ovations throughout the country with its tight combination of jazz piano, bass and drums, and tap percussion. The concert is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Weisiger Theatre at the Noron Center for the Arts.
Geri Allen & Timeline consists of a diverse group: award-winning jazz pianist Geri Allen, bassist Kenny Davis, drummer Kassa Overall, and tap-dance sensation Maurice Chestnut, who brings colorful percussive footwork and musicianship in the vein of Savion Glover and the late Gregory Hines.
Chestnut’s metal-plated shoes improvise patterns that rival Overall’s multicolored drumming, while Allen’s deep in-the-pocket, groove-oriented jazz creates a through line for each piece. Allen is hailed by Rolling Stone magazine as “the finest pianist of her generation, a gripping stylist whose mastery can no longer be denied.”
“A legendary pianist, a ‘Tonight Show’ bassist, a master drummer and a phenomenal tap dancer walk into a club …,” joked Norton Center executive director Steve Hoffman. “This concert fuses some of the best musicians of their respective instruments and explores the relationships of jazz, tap as a percussion instrument, and simply great music.
“Our audience should be entertained by the visual element of tap dancing as a collaborative part of the music ensemble, as well as appreciate the virtuosity of the musicians performing together.”
The ensemble released the album “Geri Allen & Timeline LIVE” in June 2010, which was recorded at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and Reed College in Portland, Ore., and is Allen’s first “live” recording. The group now tours throughout the United States and Europe playing in jazz festivals, art galleries and tribute concerts. This will be the ensemble’s first engagement at the Norton Center.
John Fordham with The Guardian (UK) said, “This is the album for jazz fans to play at full volume to anybody who says that music can’t be danced to any more. (The quartet is)…unique in that it combines the virtues of the traditional acoustic trio with the explosive percussion input of young New Jersey tap-dancing phenomenon Maurice Chestnut.”
About Geri Allen
Called “soulfully earnest” by The New York Times, pianist, composer and educator Geri Allen is a musician of breadth and sensitivity. Her professional credits include a highly acclaimed Blue Note recording of Duke Ellington classics with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, also featuring the legendary Lena Horne.
She has been associated closely with the music of Mary Lou Williams, and has performed the music of Williams in concerts at the Kennedy Center, and at Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis. Additionally, she has collaborated with renowned jazz legends such as Ornette Coleman, Betty Carter and Charlie Haden. Allen is both the youngest and the only female recipient of Denmark’s prestigious Jazzpar Prize. She is also a 2008 recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for Composition.
In the past several years, Geri Allen has appeared in concert at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, at the Caramoor Festival in Katonah, NY, and at the San Francisco, First Jerusalem, and Capetown South Africa Jazz Festivals. She recently undertook an Australian tour that brought her to the cities of Perth, Sydney and Melbourne.
About Kenny Davis (Bass)
A native of Chicago, Kenny Davis’ career began with listening to such great R&B artists as: Earth Wind & Fire, Brothers Johnson and The Temptations, to name a few. He then studied music theory with David Holder Sr. and attended Northeastern Illinois University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in music education.
As a participant in the Chicago jazz scene he played with Von Freedman, Ari Brown and Fred Anderson. Later, he went on to study classical bass with Warren Benfield of the Chicago Symphony, and had a number of lessons with Jeffrey Bradetich. Some of his jazz influences are Ray Brown, Paul Chambers and Ron Carter.
Davis was the bassist of The Tonight Show Band from September 1999 through March 2002. In May 2006 he received his Masters in Music (MA) from Rutgers University. Davis currently is teaching at the University of Connecticut.
Kassa Overall (Drums)
Kassa Overall, jazz drummer and composer, recently received his Bachelors of Music from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. At Oberlin, Overall had the opportunity to study under jazz legends Billy Hart, Marcus Belgrave, Robin Eubanks, Gary Bartz, Michael Rosen, and composer and director of the jazz program Wendell Logan. Overall has shared the stage with an array of jazz masters including Donald Byrd, Slide Hampton, Billy Hart, Wallace Roney, Geri Allen, Christian McBride, Gary Bartz, Marcus Belgrave, Bill Lee, Lesa Terry, Jullian Priester, Russell Malone, Benny Green, Ezra Wiess, Andy Hunter and many more.
With these artists and others, Overall has toured the world playing at various clubs and Jazz festivals. He is the recipient of the Solo & Rhythm Section Award at the Collegiate Jazz Festival (2002), 1st Place Percussionist Award at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, The Count Basie Swing Award, and has been recognized for his outstanding musicianship by the International Association on Jazz Educators.
Maurice Chestnut (Tap Percussion)
Maurice Chestnut, originally from Newark, N.J., infuses his classical rhythm tap training with hip-hop, funk and soul, developing a performance style that features tap as a musical instrument. Chestnut began dancing at the age of 5, under the direction of Alfred Gallman. He became a professional dancer at the age of 9 as a member of the New Jersey Tap Ensemble, under the direction of Deborah Mitchell.
He currently is principle dancer and choreographer with the ensemble (NJTE). Chestnut was in the cast of the national touring company of the Tony Award-winning “Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk,” with Savion Glover. He then continued to work with Glover, touring with his Improvographgy tour.
Tickets, all $30, are on sale now and can be purchased o at www.NortonCenter.com or by calling the box office at (859) 236-4692.