Stanley Cowell to play concert at TMA PeristyleWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Playing a concert in Toledo is always special for Stanley Cowell. This time the pianist has two very different gigs lined up in his hometown — and he’ll share the spotlight at one show with his daughter.
“Toledo has been very supportive of my career since the beginning,” Cowell said. “There is an appreciation there, and I always enjoy seeing old friends, and I hope I can continue to do them proud.”
Growing up in the Glass City, Cowell learned to read music by age 3, thanks to his sisters who played piano.
“[My sisters] took me to their teacher, Mary Belle Shealy, and she wouldn’t take me until I was 4 when my feet could reach the pedals. So I waited six months or so and went back and I could reach the pedals because I had long legs, and that began my formal study and I took to it.”
Oh, and there was that visit from Art Tatum.
“It was an indelible impression that [Tatum] slammed into my forehead and my ears by playing at my house when I was 6 years old,” Cowell recalled and laughed during a call from his Maryland home. “He and my father knew each other when they were kids, and he came by to visit.
“It was such powerful playing, it obviously affected me. Years later, it kind of rolled off the top of my head at a recording studio, where I was asked to do a solo number I had not intended to do. It was a trio recording, and I just started playing and the tape was rolling, and there it was, the piece he had actually played at my house, ‘You Took Advantage of Me’ by Rodgers and Hart.”
Cowell has played keys for Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Herbie Mann and others, and has numerous recordings as a leader and a sideman.
After a decade away from the recording studio, the respected composer was lured back by the chance to work with his daughter, Sunny.
“The record business has been really strange, and I kind of backed off for a while purposely, and I was focusing on education where I teach,” said Cowell, a professor and chair of jazz at Rutgers University. “I think that the progress my daughter makes when she approaches a project with me inspired me to want to go back to the studio.”
The recently released result: “Prayer for Peace.” Sunny is featured as a vocalist and violist.
“She’s a very consistent performer with surprises of her own,” Cowell said. “She’s a creative person and a natural musician even though that’s not her total focus at this point.”
“When I perform with my dad, I learn so much,” Sunny, a first-year law student at the University of Maryland, wrote in an e-mail during exam week. “He is critical but endearing when we practice and perform together.
“Although I always knew he had a lot to offer as both a professional musician and professor, I feel like I am finally at the age when I can appreciate and benefit the most from his extensive knowledge and experience.”
Cowell will perform with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Jeffrey Pollock at 8 p.m. Jan. 7 at the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle Theatre. The concert will celebrate the orchestra’s upcoming trip to Carnegie Hall. Tickets are $20 to $60.
Cowell and his daughter will join bassist Clifford Murphy and drummer Renell Gonsalves for a CD release party at Murphy’s Place, 151 Water St., at 7 p.m. Jan. 8. Admission is $15 and includes appetizers.