Black History Month: Charlotte Mosley Cowens

11:39 AM, Feb 1, 2011   |    comments
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She always wore a sequined baseball cap, was proud of being a sassy woman and a shrewd judge of character.

"Always be proud of who you are," she said. "Be proud you're beautiful, and be proud that you're a smart young woman, and carry that with grace."

Part of Cowens' pride came from being a superlative jazz pianist. She began playing when she was a 3-year-old, picking out tunes on a toy piano she got as a Christmas present. When she was 5, she graduated to an upright piano. By the time she was a teenager, Cowens' played jazz piano with such flair that even the hymns she played on the church piano sounded like a number from a set at a club in Five Points.

She got fired from one of her church piano-playing jobs because the pastor told her she was playing "too jazzy."

Cowens' adolescence coincided with a time when famous jazz musicians, including Duke Ellington, played at clubs in Five Points and elsewhere in Denver. If she could, Cowens' would be in the audience.

She shared her music by playing at Denver senior centers, performing for the residents of Denver's Fitzsimons Army Hospital before it closed, along with jazz clubs and other venues.

Charlotte Mosley Cowens died Aug. 9, 2002. She was survived by her chosen daughter and husband Russell Anderson, Sr.

She was a member of the Musicians Local No. 20-623, and as a member of the American Federation Musician (AFM) for more than 40 years. She was honored as Miss Senior Denver in 1979. Cowens was featured in a 2001 publication Five Points Neighborhood of Denver and two videos "Music In Your Soul" and "Jazz in Five Points."

Courtesy: Donnie L. Betts and Denver Public Library

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