Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ulysses Owens Jr. Onward & Upward DClef 2014

Improvisational music for the spirit, a stellar cast led by one of the finest talents in jazz today!
Brent Black /
Most people hip to the improvisational i.e. jazz scene are aware of Ulysses Owens Jr. and his work with Christian McBride. The musical resume goes on to include  Patti Austin, Terence Blanchard, Russell Malone, Wynton Marsalis, Mulgrew Miller, Maceo Parker, and Dianne Reeves. While his prolific talents behind the kit are and have never been questioned, Ulysses Owens Jr. has a keen ear for talent and the how to build the right chemistry, critically acclaimed work as a producer confirms this. Onward & Upward boasts an impressive and equally diverse lineup including Anat Cohen, Gilad Hekselman and perhaps the hottest ticket behind the piano bench in Christian Sands. The end result is an ingenious manipulation of styles and rhythms to further enhance what is the new sound for straight ahead players today.
Tunes here are solid ranging from imaginative collaborations with trombonist Michael Dease on "For Nelson" as well as a delightful arrangement of the Phyllis Hyman number "Just 25 Miles To Anywhere." As a composer the magic continues with the originals which open and close this spirited journey with "Onward & Upward" and "Drum Postlude." Other notable guests through the release include bassist Ruben Rogers and rising young saxophone star Adam Rongo. This is a true collective where egos are left at the door and the end result is an explosion of creativity yet sidestepping any pretentious landmines that others seem to invariably hit.
The only thing constant in life is change. The exponential growth of the talent of Ulysses Owens Jr. seems to have come to fruition with a release that is steeped in diverse lyrical and rhythmic offerings and pushes the musical envelope in the natural evolution of music that has at times seemed bent on self destruction. Fresh, vibrant and expansive are all adjectives that come to mind when listening to Onward & Upward. This my friends is the coming out party for Ulysses Owens Jr. A prolific instrumentalist, gifted producer, and composer has this drummer as a legitimate jazz triple threat and raising the bar for others to follow.
A no brainer...
Tracks: Onward & Upward Intro; People Make The World Go Round; Just 25 Miles To Anywhere; SST; Exodus; Samba Jam; Fee Fi Fo Fum; The Gift of Forgiveness; For Nelson; Human Nature; Drum Postlude.
Personnel: Ulysses Owens Jr.: Drums, Percussion & Vocals; Anat Cohen: Tenor Saxophone & Clarinet; Jason Palmer: Trumpet; Michael Dease: Trombone; Gilad Hekselman: Guitar; Christian Sands; Piano; Reuben Rogers: Bass; Charles Turner: Vocals (2); Adam Rongo: Alto Saxophone (9); Benny Benack: Trumpet (8) & Vocals / Percussion (1); Matthew Rybicki: Bass (8, 9, 10).
All Photos by Gulnara Khamatova