Stanley Cowell

Prayer for Peace

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For a good part of his career, pianist Stanley Cowell has had greater exposure recording for labels in Europe and Japan than in his native United States. Prayer for Peace marks his first recording in over a decade, though it is immediately apparent that Cowell has not been playing in a vacuum but continuing to evolve. In addition to the seasoned rhythm section, consisting of bassist Mike Richmond and drummer Victor Lewis, the pianist features his daughter Sunny, who sings or plays viola on several tracks. Cowell has long been an underrated composer, and his "Japanese Tea House" conveys a memorable aural portrait of the Far East, with Sunny's viola adding an essential element to this driving post-bop tune. The solo piano composition "For James Williams" was written in memory of the beloved pianist/composer/educator; it's a soulful, intricate blues which captures his spirit perfectly. The leader's demanding "Chirality" is full of sudden shifts in direction, also giving Sunny a chance to show off her improvisational skills on her viola, and her expressive vocals are featured in the swinging opener, Benny Carter's "When Lights Are Low," along with the standard "I'll Never Be the Same," with her father playing Art Tatum-like riffs in spots behind her. Sunny contributed the pop-flavored "Time Can Only Tell," though her adept use of her voice belies her extensive vocal studies. Perhaps Stanley Cowell won't wait a decade before returning to the studio after this outstanding effort.

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