WBGO Radar

Jon Cowherd: Mercy Project

Cover of pianist Jon Cowherd's CD "Mercy."

It seems improbable for Jon Cowherd to make his debut as a leader now. He’s been writing and playing his music with others for decades.

Much of Jon can be heard with The Fellowship Band, his tandem effort with drummer Brian Blade.  But the organizing principle of that group, as its name suggests, has always favored the collective over any individual. 

Mercy, Cowherd's fan-funded ArtistShare project with guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Jon Patitucci and Blade, establishes once and for all what attentive Fellowship listeners already know.  Jon Cowherd merits singular praise.

 “Mercy Wind,” the third and final movement of a suite presented here, is the cornerstone of this session.  “The third movement I wrote maybe seven or eight years ago, and never knew what to do with it,” Cowherd says in an interview on WBGO’s The Checkout.  “It felt like it was part of something bigger.”

Spacious melodies, deep harmonies, and romantic lyricism are hallmarks of Cowherd’s mature style.  “I’m really attracted to Aaron Copland and tone poems and picturesque things – especially brass,” says the pianist, who also studied the French horn.  “But I was also really into Pat Metheny when I was in high school, and he’s got that Midwestern open feeling.”

 Indeed, “Surrender’s Song” and “Four Rivers”  have a Shaker quality: not in terms of austerity, but as simple paths to the epiphanic.  The songs on Mercy build with unhurried moments, and it’s clear Jon Cowherd likes to take his time with things.       

“I had the opportunity to play on a riverboat called The Delta Queen,” he says.  It’s a paddle-wheeler, so it goes at a pretty slow pace.  I was in a band that played traditional New Orleans music and some swing dance music.  I loved dragging a rocking chair and just sitting there.  That cruise to Nashville on the Cumberland River was just beautiful.”

Jon Cowherd presents his original music on Mercy.  Grab a chair and relax.

What’s the point of rushing a good thing?

The audio for this preview is no longer available. To hear tracks and purchase the album, visit iTunes or ArtistShare.


Jon Cowherd's Mercy in an ArtistShare fan-funded project.  Participants in the project receive access to the creative process of the making of the CD and credit listing on the CD packaging. Digital release is set for November 15th

    - Josh Jackson, WBGO VP of content


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