Stanley Cowell, 'Juneteenth'
In a year when Kamasi Washington vacuumed up accolades for his explosive tour de force, another jazz artist released his own epic – one more subdued, but no less stirring. On his solo album, Juneteenth, Stanley Cowell, the 74-year-old piano great best known for co-founding the storied Strata-East label in 1971, commemorated the 150th anniversary of the end of slavery in the U.S. with a kind of analog remix. His 30-minute title suite and its companion tracks, including a remarkable improvised coda, scramble the DNA of American songs ranging from "Dixie" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" to "Strange Fruit." The set makes room for saloon-style blues, concert-hall modernism and churchy gospel, recasting the sad saga of slavery and Civil Rights as an impressionistic portrait of struggle and hard-won uplift. Hank Shteamer