Stanley Cowell - Musa-Ancestral Streams LP
Label: Pure Pleasure
2020 was particularly bad for bereavements in the jazz world, but the loss of Stanley Cowell in the dying embers of the year was almost too much to take. His place in musical history is assured by his co-founding of the iconic Strata-East label with Charles Tolliver, but Cowell's body of work is also outstanding.
In many ways Musa-Ancestral Streams is the keystone in the artist's discography insofar as it underlines his sumptuous gifts as a composer as well as his steadfast cultural convictions. Cowell was in a continuum that crosses time and space, from Africa to an America of old and new sounds. The three piano's he used – kalima/thumb piano, acoustic and electric – thus bridge tradition and modernity and serve the sublime character of his melodies, which have the most graceful lyricism. "Equipoise," "Maimoun," and "Travlellin' Man," with its gorgeous rippling motifs, are anthems.
These songs show how astutely Cowell uses blues, classical and folk balladry to create music that was both personal and universal. If ever there was a balm for the world then it is right here, testimony of the greatness of an artist whose work should be reassessed, and more to the point, continue to live far beyond his untimely demise.