Stanley Cowell: Prayer For Peace


Prayer For Peace


Stanley Cowell (piano)


Back to the Beautiful (Concord 4398)

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Stanley Cowell (piano),

Santi Debriano (bass), Joe Chambers (drums)


Composed by Stanley Cowell


Recorded: New York, July 1989


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

When Stanley Cowell arrived in New York in 1966, he immediately turned heads with his playing on saxophonist Marion Brown's Three for Shepp, particularly on the track "Spooks," where his solo exhibited a vast knowledge of the history of jazz piano, a kaleidoscopic journey of the kind you'd expect back then from Jaki Byard. From that point on Cowell also impressed as a composer, recording memorable tunes such as "Equipoise," "Cal Massey," "Maimoun," and "Prayer for Peace."

Cowell originally recorded "Prayer for Peace" in 1973 on his solo Musa Ancestral Streams release for Strata-East, the groundbreaking independent label that he founded with trumpeter Charles Tolliver, and he revisited it in this trio format in 1989. Cowell's playing here brilliantly combines the cerebral with the majestic. Art Tatum played at Cowell's parents' Toledo, Ohio, home in 1947 when Stanley was just six years old; Cowell never forgot the experience, and has aspired to achieve total command of the piano throughout his long career, which included several years with the Bobby Hutcherson-Harold Land Quintet, and an even longer stint with the Heath Brothers. Cowell's prelude for the 1989 "Prayer for Peace" shows his penchant for sophisticated harmonies and in this case a resolute spirituality. (He's a practicing Buddhist.) The staccato theme has a searching, yearning flavor, whereas the bridge evokes a chorale chant. Cowell's solo displays his usual technical flair, with swirling arpeggios and extended lines, prickly note clusters, and a sweeping vision that extends from the gently reflective to the strongly assertive. The return of the theme leads to a calm, luminous out-chorus that is capped by a final liberating "hallelujah"-like interjection. Debriano and Chambers maintain an effectively unobtrusive yet steadfast foundation during this track's engrossing nine minutes.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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