STANLEY COWELL TRIO
BLUES FOR THE VIET CONG
LP Polydor (UK), 1969
This one had proven rather elusive. I’ve scanned the web for it but never came across it.
It’s a long time I wanted to listen to Stanley Cowell‘s first album. It is significant to note that Cowell’s first date as a leader was recorded in UK on a “major” (Polydor), an opportunity that probably would not be conceivable in the States. It is therefore understandable that later on, Cowell (and Tolliver) decided to set up their own independent label, to provide an outlet for creative Afro-American artists neglected by the recording industry in the US.
The European re-issue on CD (as Travelin' Man – on Black Lion in 1992) has been long OOP and from what I’ve read the sound quality wasn't that good (the re-edition of Brillant Circles was dreadful). Arista/Polydor does not seem to have any defined re-issue programme (who does it belong to, now?).
According to Discogs there was a re-issue in Japan in 1988 but good luck to find it.
Now, the obvious thing to do was to ask the man who has everything or almost ... And yes, Paul D. had it, not the crappy European CD re-issue, not even the expensive Japanese … no, Paul has the original UK release on Polydor, bought some 40+ years ago when the LP was released! This bloke knows his stuff and has known it for a long time. In 69, I was still listening to British blues!
So here it is, ripped from the original LP, with the sound quality we’ve come to expect from the Belgian Wizard.
I could not find much info on the album on the Web. Probably one of Cowell’s least known work.
Ohio-born and classically-trained pianist Stanley Cowell (1941), who relocated to New York in 1966 and played with Marion Brown (1966-67), Max Roach (1967-70), Bobby Hutcherson (1968-71) and Charles Tolliver (1969-71), crafted cerebral and occasionally romantic compositions that straddled the border between hard bop and free jazz on Blues for the Viet Cong (June 1969), in a trio, such as the seven-minute Departure, the eight-minute The Shuttle and the nine-minute Photon In A Paper World, (…) (Source: http://www.scaruffi.com/jazz/cowell.html).
This is what I found on AMG : Stanley Cowell's debut as a leader features his piano (and on two selections rare early outings on electric keyboards) with a trio also including bassist Steve Novosel and drummer Jimmy Hopps. Cowell's style at the time was often modal and already quite powerful.
Then Scott Yanow adds “After hearing seven of his often-somber pieces, Cowell's stride version of "You Took Advantage of Me" (inspired by Art Tatum) is a welcome change of pace”. One could wonder whether he has ever heard the records. I would not qualify most tracks as “somber”. As for “You took advantage of Me”, it’s the fourth track (the last on Side A of the LP), so it does not come after seven often somber pieces. Interestingly, “You Took Advantage of Me” may bring to mind Jaki Byard, another great modern pianist who would occasionally dwell into older styles such as Stride (or even ragtime). And by the way, both Byard and Cowell worked with Rashaan Roland Kirk, a musical genius whose concept of jazz was all encompassing, from the original field holler, the blues and to gospel to hard bop, funk and free. But his music never lost touch with the very essence of jazz: swing and joy!
A1 Departure 7:08
A2 Sweet Song 3:02
A3 The Shuttle 8:07
A4 You Took Advantage Of Me 4:47
B1 Blues For The Viet Cong 4:18
B2 Wedding March 2:49
B3 Photon In A Paper World 9:03
B4 Travellin' Man 3:43
Piano, Electric Piano, Written-By – Stanley Cowell
Bass – Steve Novosel
Drums – Jimmy Hopps
Engineer – Carlos Olms / Producer – Alan Bates, Chris Whent
Recorded in London on June 5, 1969