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Stanley Cowell: Prayer for Peace

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Pianist Stanley Cowell hasn’t made an album in over a decade, but his teaching activities at Rutgers University have kept his skills as a soloist and bandleader sharp. When he takes off on Benny Carter’s chestnut “When Lights Are Low,” his phrasing, chordal voicings and use of space are impeccable. Bassist Mike Richmond (also a strong soloist here) and drummer Victor Lewis drive him at every step, proving that a hard-swinging trio never goes out of fashion.

Cowell’s 20-year-old daughter Sunny sits in with dad’s band for most of this session, alternately playing viola and singing. The younger Cowell inherited some of her father’s intuitive sense on her instrument. She adds exotic textures to the “Asian Art Suite,” which Stanley composed after seeing an exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. On the suite’s “Blues for Rama,” Sunny’s playing is promising if a bit too tentative. (The suite and “Chirality” best showcase Stanley Cowell’s depth as a composer.)

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