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Keyboardist Jon Cowherd draws his paychecks from a slew of touring and recording artists, including drummer Brian Blade, singer Cassandra Wilson, songwriter Rosanne Cash and even iconoclast Iggy Pop. On Pride and Joy, his latest album as a leader, Cowherd and his trio – Blade and his frequent rhythm partner John Patitucci on bass – are joined by saxophone star Chris Potter and veteran percussionist Alex Acuña on a few of these melody-rich jazz tunes. Potter shares the lead riffs on several cuts with Cowherd, giving them a quartet feel, as the pianist generously shares the spotlight. Cowherd’s no speed demon, preferring to play rippling lines that let the songs unfold, rather than charge forward, which clearly suits Blade and Patitucci perfectly. This is especially true on the ballads – “Honest Man” and “Plainfield” come off as purely gorgeous. But that doesn’t mean the peppier bits don’t shine, especially on “Chickmonk” (presumably a hybrid of Chick Corea and Thelonious Monk) and “Grand Mesa.” By the end, Cowherd gives his pals a rest and concludes the album on his own with the luminous “Quilt City Blues.” With his clear love of a good tune and his ability to maximize it while still leaving room for improvisation, Cowherd makes Pride and Joy a pure pleasure to hear.
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