How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
What we know for certain is that Astrid Cowan was born in Detroit, studied piano for some time in San Francisco, now lives in the Los Angeles area, and is an accomplished mainstream player whose virile two–handed technique and propensity to swing at any speed are remindful of McCoy Tyner, Gene Harris and other modernists from Monty Alexander to James Williams. We know too that Cowan is a perceptive writer, as she shows with her three sparkling compositions on Swing Team — “Thursday Night at Pasquales,” “Salida del Sol” and “Silver’s Sox.” The rest of the material on Cowan’s admirable debut album is high–grade as well with three standards (“I’ve Got the World on a String,” “I Love You,” “How Deep Is the Ocean”) rubbing shoulders with Charlie Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce” and Thad Jones’s tenderhearted ballad, “A Child Is Born.” Cowan’s “swing team” is reliable but not overbearing, which is exactly what any pianist needs and wants. Simon, who has a couple of albums under his belt as leader, provides an especially broad shoulder on which to lean, laying down the rhythmic pulse with metronomic efficiency. Rusch, who is present on all but “Pasquales” and the bossa “Salida del Sol,” is a trustworthy if derivative soloist, while Berman’s mellow guitar adds weight and color to the group dynamic. Cowan, meanwhile, proves convincingly that she is a first–rate Jazz pianist; her main roadblocks on the road to success are the many other exemplary keyboardists, most of whom are better known than she, in what seems to be an ever–widening circle. At least her talents are now a matter of “record,” so perhaps fortune may smile on her. We can hope so, anyway.
Track listing: Thursday Night at Pasquales; I’ve Got the World on a String; Salida del Sol; Billie’s Bounce; A Child Is Born; Silver’s Sox; I Love You; How Deep Is the Ocean (59:06).
Astrid Cowan, piano; Jerry Rusch, trumpet, flugelhorn; Ron Berman, guitar; Richard Simon, bass; Chris Wabich, drums.
Contact: Astron Records, P.O. Box 4985, Redondo Beach, CA 90278