The 27th of Jon Turney’s weekly selection (introduced HERE) highlights the work of a late, great piano master.
The marvellous Stanley Cowell’s first solo piano album graced the storied label he ran briefly with trumpeter Charles Tolliver, Strata East. Other early Cowell recordings, especially the first trio date Blues for the Viet Cong, are superb too but Musa stands out for me. It features some of his best known compositions, including the lovely Equipoise and Maimoun. And this one, which begins sounding rather like a Randy Weston anthem, then takes off into an extended, rhapsodic display of Cowell’s approach to solo playing.
It has the pan-stylistic flair of one who was classically trained, deeply impressed by a home visit from Art Tatum as a child, and a master of old jazz disciplines from stride and boogie onwards as well as Bud Powell’s cut glass modernisms and the (then) avant garde. It’s a skill set like Jaki Byard’s and, like him, Cowell is revered by later all-pianisms enthusiasts such as Jason Moran and Ethan Iverson. After his death at the end of last year Iverson urged that Cowell should have been more widely appreciated as one of the remaining “authentic jazz heroes”. Just so.
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