Stanley Cowell

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Stanley Cowell
Playing with the Heath Brothers in Rockefeller Center, June 1977
Playing with the Heath Brothers in Rockefeller Center, June 1977
Background information
Born(1941-05-05)May 5, 1941
Toledo, Ohio, U.S.
DiedDecember 17, 2020(2020-12-17) (aged 79)
Dover, Delaware, U.S.
LabelsArista, DIW, Galaxy, SteepleChase, Strata-East

Stanley Cowell (May 5, 1941 – December 17, 2020) was an American jazz pianist and co-founder of the Strata-East Records label.

Early life[edit]

Cowell was born in Toledo, Ohio.[1] He began playing the piano around the age of four, and became interested in jazz after seeing Art Tatum at the age of six.[2] Tatum was a family friend.[1]

After high school, Cowell studied at Oberlin College and received a graduate degree in classical piano from the University of Michigan. During his time at college, he played with jazz multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk, which proved to be formative for the pianist.[1] He moved to New York in the mid-1960s.[1]

Later life and career[edit]

Cowell played with Marion Brown, Max Roach, Bobby Hutcherson, Clifford Jordan, Harold Land, Sonny Rollins and Stan Getz.[3] Cowell played with trumpeter Charles Moore and others in the Detroit Artist's Workshop Jazz Ensemble in 1965–66.

In 1971, Cowell co-founded the record label Strata-East with trumpeter Charles Tolliver. The label would become one of the most successful Black-led, independent labels of its day.[4]

During the late 1980s, Cowell was part of a regular quartet led by J.J. Johnson.[5] Cowell taught in the Music Department of the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

On December 17, 2020, Cowell died at Bayhealth Hospital in Dover, Delaware, from hypovolemic shock. He was 79 years old.[6]


As leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1969 Blues for the Viet Cong Freedom Trio, with Steve Novosel (bass), Jimmy Hopps (drums); also released as Travellin' Man by Black Lion
1969 Brilliant Circles Freedom With Woody Shaw (trumpet, maracas), Tyrone Washington (tenor sax, flute, clarinet, maracas, tambourine), Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone), Reggie Workman (bass, electric bass), Joe Chambers (drums)
1972 Illusion Suite ECM Trio, with Stanley Clarke (bass), Jimmy Hopps (drums)
1972 Handscapes Strata-East As The Piano Choir; with Nat Jones, Hugh Lawson, Webster Lewis, Harold Mabern, Danny Mixon and Sonelius Smith (piano, electric piano, vocals, percussion, African piano, harpsichord)
1973 Musa: Ancestral Streams Strata-East Solo piano, electric piano, kalimba
1974 Handscapes 2 Strata-East As The Piano Choir; with Sonelius Smith (piano, electric piano), Ron Burton, Nat Jones, Hugh Lawson, Webster Lewis and Harold Mabern (piano), Mtume, Jimmy Hopps and John Lewis (percussion)
1975 Regeneration Strata-East With Marion Brown (wooden flute), Jimmy Heath (soprano sax, flute, alto flute), John Stubblefield (zuna), Jerry Venable (guitar), Psyche Wanzandae (harmonica, flute), Bill Lee (bass), Aleke Kanonu (bass drum, vocals), Billy Higgins (drums, gembhre, percussion), Ed Blackwell (water drum, parade drum, percussion), Nadi Quamar (mama-lekimbe, percussion, Madigascan harp), Charles Fowlkes (vocals, electric bass), Glenda Barnes and Kareema (vocals)
1977 Waiting for the Moment Galaxy Solo piano, electric piano, clavinet, synthesizer, kalimba
1978? Talkin' 'bout Love Galaxy
1978 Equipoise Galaxy Trio, with Cecil McBee (bass), Roy Haynes (drums)
1981 New World Galaxy
1983 Such Great Friends Strata-East Quartet, with Billy Harper (tenor sax), Reggie Workman (bass), Billy Hart (drums)
1985? Live at Cafe Des Copains Unisson
1987 We Three DIW Trio, with Buster Williams (bass), Frederick Waits (drums)
1989 Back to the Beautiful Concord Jazz One track solo piano; most tracks trio, with Santi Debriano (bass), Joe Chambers (drums); some tracks quartet, with Steve Coleman (alto sax, soprano sax) added
1989 Sienna SteepleChase Trio, with Ron McClure (bass), Keith Copeland (drums)
1990 Close to You Alone DIW Trio, with Cecil McBee (bass), Ronnie Burrage (drums)
1990 Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Volume Five Concord Jazz Solo piano
1990 Departure No. 2 SteepleChase Trio, with Bob Cranshaw (bass), Keith Copeland (drums)
1991 Games SteepleChase Trio, with Cheyney Thomas (bass), Wardell Thomas (drums)
1993 Bright Passion SteepleChase Trio, with Cheyney Thomas (bass), Wardell Thomas (drums)
1993 Angel Eyes SteepleChase Solo piano
1993 Live at Copenhagen Jazz House SteepleChase Trio, with Cheyney Thomas (bass), Wardell Thomas (drums); in concert
1993 Setup SteepleChase Sextet, with Eddie Henderson (trumpet), Dick Griffin (trombone), Rick Margitza (tenor sax), Peter Washington (bass), Billy Hart (drums)
1995 Mandara Blossoms SteepleChase With Billy Pierce (tenor sax), Jeff Halsey (bass), Ralph Peterson (drums), Karen Francis (vocals)
1996 Hear Me One SteepleChase With Bruce Williams (alto sax), Dwayne Burno, Keith Copeland
1999 Dancers in Love Venus Trio, with Tarus Mateen (bass), Nasheet Waits (drums)
2007 Death Is the Communion 3D
2010 Prayer for Peace SteepleChase With Mike Richmond, Sunny Cowell, Victor Lewis
2012 It's Time SteepleChase Trio, with Tom DiCarlo (bass), Chris Brown (drums)
2013 Welcome to This New World SteepleChase With Vic Juris (guitar), Tom DiCarlo (bass), Chris Brown (drums)
2014 Are You Real? SteepleChase Trio, with Jay Anderson (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)
2015 Reminiscent SteepleChase Trio, with Jay Anderson (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)
2015 Juneteenth Vision Fugitive Solo piano
2017 No Illusions SteepleChase Quartet, with Bruce Williams (alto sax, flute), Jay Anderson (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)
2020 At Keystone Korner, Baltimore SteepleChase Quintet, with Freddie Hendrix (trumpet), Bruce Williams (alto sax), Tom DiCarlo (bass), Vince Ector (drums), Sunny Cowell (vocal)

As sideman[edit]

With Gary Bartz

With Marion Brown

With Larry Coryell

With Richard Davis

With Sonny Fortune

With Roy Haynes

With Jimmy Heath

With The Heath Brothers

With Stan Getz

With Johnny Griffin

With Bobby Hutcherson

With J.J. Johnson

With Clifford Jordan

With James Mtume

With Oliver Nelson

With Jimmy Owens

With Art Pepper

With Max Roach

With Charles Sullivan

With Buddy Terry

With Charles Tolliver


  1. ^ a b c d Collar, Matt. "Stanley Cowell". AllMusic. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  2. ^ Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2002). The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD. London: Penguin Books. pp. 342–344.
  3. ^ Fairweather, Digby; Ian Carr; Brian Priestley (2004). The Rough Guide to Jazz. p. 286.
  4. ^ Russonello, Giovanni (December 20, 2020). "Stanley Cowell, Jazz Pianist With a Wide Range, Dies at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved December 22, 2020. Strata-East Records, a pioneering institution in jazz and the broader Black Arts Movement. It would release a steady run of pathbreaking music over the next decade, becoming one of the most successful Black-run labels of its time.
  5. ^ Yanow, Scott (2000). Bebop. p. 92.
  6. ^ Chinen, Nate (18 December 2020). "Stanley Cowell, Pianist, Composer and Educator with a Kaleidoscopic View of Jazz, Is Dead at 79". WBGO. Retrieved December 18, 2020.

External links[edit]