Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Cowell, Stanley (Allen)

Cowell, Stanley (Allen), pianist, composer, educator; b. Toledo, Ohio, 5 May 1941.

His mother was born Willie Hazel Lytle in Morganton, NC, Jan. 8, 1906, and died Feb. 2002. She married Stanley Roger Cowell in Toledo in 1929. Stanley (Jr.) studied piano with two noted teachers in the community, Mary Belle Shealy, and Elmer Gertz; and pipe organ with William Harter. By the age of fourteen he was featured soloist with the Toledo Youth Orchestra in Kabelevsky's Piano Concerto No. 3, a church organist/choir director, and a budding jazz pianist.

Cowell obtained a Bachelor of Music degree from Oberlin Conservatory and a Master of Music degree from the University of Michigan. He pursued additional undergraduate study at the Mozarteum Akademie, Salzburg, Austria, and graduate study at Wichita State University and the University of Southern California. While at U.S.C., he performed Gershwin's Concerto in F with the American Youth Orchestra.

In 1966, after completing his studies, Cowell moved to New York City and worked for Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Herbie Mann, Miles Davis, Stan Getz and the Bobby Hutcherson-Harold Land groups. For several years he was part of Music Inc., along with Charles Tolliver, with whom he formed the musician-owned record company, Strata-East in 1971.

Cowell organized the Piano Choir in 1972, a group of seven New York-based keyboardists, and he became a founding member of Collective Black Artists, Inc., a non-profit company devoted to bringing African American music and musicians to the public. He served as conductor of the CBA Ensemble, 1973-74. In 1974, he served as a musical director of the New York Jazz Repertory Company at Carnegie Hall, along with Gil Evans, Billy Taylor and Sy Oliver. During the Seventies, Cowell performed and recording with Sonny Rollins, Clifford Jordan, Oliver Nelson, Donald Byrd, Roy Haynes, Richard Davis, Art Pepper, Jimmy Heath and many more artists. From 1974-84 he toured, recorded and did workshops with the Heath Brothers on a regular basis. 

He was a recipient of a Meet The Composer/Rockefeller Foundation/AT&T Jazz Program grant for 1990-91, for the creation of "Piano Concerto No. 1" (in honor of Art Tatum), which was premiered by the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, January 17, 18, 1992.  Stanley served on the board of the Charlin Jazz Society, producer of jazz concerts in Washington, D.C., 1990 - 96. He and his wife Sylvia also produce concerts in Prince George's County, Maryland, under The Piano Choir, Inc., a non-profit music and educational entity. In July, 1992, he was featured soloist with the Colorado Festival Orchestra in Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue, and other "third stream" works, conducted by Gunther Schuller and Larry Newland.                       

He was a professor at Lehman College, Bronx, New York, from 1981 to 1999; since then he has taught at Rutgers University's New Brunswick campus. He also taught at the New England Conservatory in 1988-9. He continues to perform in various ensemble formations, from trio to orchestra.

Selected recent recordings: 
Angel Eyes (1994); Setup (1994); Piano Jazz (1995; originally aired on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz); Live at Copenhagen Jazz House (1995); Mandara Blossoms (1996); Hear Me One (1997); Dancers In Love (2000)

"The Dream Keeper:Langston Hughes", a one hour documentary
   aired on PBS-TV affiliates; original music score, 2/14/88.

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