A couple of recent deaths came to my attention yesterday and I wanted to briefly pay tribute to the folks in question.

I first met Roger Greenspun when I was a graduate student in the film program at Columbia, By that point he had been removed as the second-chair film critic at the New York Times, allegedly a victim of Abe Rosenthal's contempt for cinema. His primary crime, apparently, was taking the likes of Robert Bresson and Clint Eastwood seriously. (That was hardly the most significant of Rosenthal's loathesome activities as the newspaper's managing editor but the one that had the most direct impact on my circle of friends and colleagues.) Roger was an occasional contributor the The Thousand Eyes, if memory serves, of which I was managing editor, and we spoke from time to time. He was immensely generous and helpful to a struggling newcomer. Indeed, he gave me the single best piece of career advice I ever received, one which I have passed along frequently: "Write as often as your editors will let you, as long as they'll let you." In the days before the Internet, that was doubly true. He was candid and quietly wittyin our conversations; it has been several years since I saw him sitting on the aisle halfway up the incline at the Walter Reade Theatre and I missed him. Needless to say, I will miss him even more now.

Detroit has produced many great jazz musicians -- the Joneses, Elvin, Hank and Thad, come to mind immediately -- but in recent years few have shone more brightly than the mercurial pianist Geri Allen, who died Tuesday at 60. Besides being a brilliant improviser and composer, she was also an important educator, director of jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh. For a small sample of her work, check out this YouTube clip from a recital at the Guggenheim Museum.