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I hope Astrid Cowan will forgive me for saying she plays piano like a man. The truth is, she does, employing a percussive, two–fisted approach that reminds one of McCoy Tyner, the late Gene Harris, Benny Green and other fiery, blues–based modernists. Not much is said on Swing Team about her background, only that she was born in Detroit, studied for some time in San Francisco and now lives in the Los Angeles area. What one can further deduce, besides the fact that she is an uncommonly gifted player who can swing hard at any tempo, is that she’s an accomplished composer too, as she shows on three dazzling numbers — “Thursday Night at Pasquales,” “Salida del Sol” and “Silver’s Sox.” The rest of the material on Cowan’s debut album is high–grade as well with a trio of standards (“I’ve Got the World on a String,” “I Love You,” “How Deep Is the Ocean”) rubbing shoulders with Charlie Parker’s loping “Billie’s Bounce” and Thad Jones’s tender ballad, “A Child Is Born.” Cowan’s “swing team” is dependable but not overbearing, which is what any pianist needs and wants from a supporting cast. Simon, a well–respected bassist who has recorded a number of times under his own name, offers an especially sturdy shoulder on which to lean, framing the rhythmic beat with metronomic efficiency. Rusch, who sits in on every number except “Pasquales” and “Salida del Sol,” is a respectable if derivative improviser, while Berman’s smooth guitar licks add weight and color to the group dynamic. Cowan, meanwhile, verifies convincingly that she’s a top–notch contemporary Jazz pianist, one who deserves to be more widely heard. The hope is that this album represents a large first step in that direction.
Contact:Astron Records, P.O. Box 4985, Redondo Beach, CA 90278–4985. Web site, www.astronjazz.com; e–mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Track Listing: Thursday Night at Pasquales; I
Personnel: Astrid Cowan, piano; Jerry Rusch, trumpet, flugelhorn; Ron Berman, guitar; Richard Simon, bass; Chris Wabich, drums.