Jan 2, 2012
2012 is starting out with a bang for the venerable trumpet player Jimmy Owens. Jimmy will be honored as a NEA Jazz Master Tuesday, January 10, 2012 7:30pm at Rose Theater presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center. Owens, Charlie Haden, Jack DeJohnette, Sheila Jordan and Von Freeman will be given the nation's highest honor in jazz. Owens will also be the recipient of the 2012 A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy, primarily for his founding of the Jazz Musician's Emergency Fund, a program of the Jazz Foundation of America.
The week before the award, Owens will lead a sensation septet into Dizzy's Club Coca Cola (Jan 3 through 8, 2012). Scheduled members include Wycliffe Gordon, trombone; Marcus Strickland, tenor saxophone; Howard Johnson, tuba, and baritone saxophone; Kenny Barron, piano; Kenny Davis, bass; and Winard Harper, drums. The band will be supporting Owens standout new release, The Monk Project, which is released on IPO Recordings today.
The Monk Project is more than just a tribute to the eccentric and brilliant pianist and composer. Instead, it is an opportunity for an outstanding arranger to give the tines what Owens calls “A little twist”, and then let the soloists recreate well-known tunes, bringing a new sense of enjoyment of the music of Monk. I spoke with Jimmy just before Christmas, as he prepared for the excitement of the New Year. Musical selections supplementing our conversation include:
Jimmy Owens – “Pannonica” from The Monk Project. “I wanted it to be slower than the original.” In bringing the tempo down to that of a ballad, the trumpeter manages to muster a dreamier ambience from one of Monk’s most contemplative compositions. The ensemble sound shines here, supplying suppleness through which the leader’s trumpet alternately brooding and celebratory comes to the fore with sublime clarity. Gordon’s trombone follows in similar fashion with Barron’s piano statement offering respite from the melancholic mood.
Jimmy Owens – “Blue Monk” from The Monk Project. An oft-recorded number is taken at the unusual, deliberate tempo redolent of a New Orleans funeral march. Wycliffe Gordon soulfully growls on his plunger muted trombone, and Barron tinkles his notes with air of a late night-early morning barrel house pianist. Davis and Harper nail down the slow beat, and then push it to a rousing finale led by Owens’ horn.
Thad Jones Repertory Band - "Three and One" from One More: The Summary, Music Of Thad Jones, Vol. 2. Owens has been a valuable member of large ensemble groups led by Gerald Wilson, and he cut his teeth with the Thad Jones Big Bands. Here he pays tribute to his mentor, joining Eddie Daniels, Frank Wess, John Mosca and Benny Golson on one of Jones' best known tunes.
Billy Cobham – Title Track from Spectrum. You might not think of Owens when you think of innovative fusion, but Cobham, a high school classmate of Jimmy’s, tapped Owens to play trumpet on his solo debut in 1973. The core band is Cobham on drums and percussion, Tommy Bolin on guitar and Jan Hammer on keyboards, with guests on this title track including Joe Farrell on flute, Ron Carter on bass and Ray Barretto on congas.