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The problem with Just the Beginning is common to plenty of debuts. Owens seems so passionate about showing off every facet of his talent and every interest that’s shaped his style that the album comes off as disjointed, even a little erratic. The album was cut in four sessions, and each of the seven tracks uses different personnel. “Funknicity” is double-barreled funk, with wah-wah guitar from Aaron Koppell, machine-gun kick drum from Maurice Jones, and banshee wailing over the song’s skeletal vamp from Owens and guest Tim Warfield. The title track, on the other hand, is brisk postbop, apparently somewhat modeled after the 60s version of the Miles Davis Quintet (and with some fine trumpet playing by another guest, Orbert Davis). “Rootz” taps into fiery modal jazz; the pretty ballad “Crystal” recalls Coltrane; “Dottie Marie,” is organ-stoked soul jazz; “Brighter Days” combines gospel and jazz, with recited lyrics and R & B singing; and on “Ellen & Stella’s Groove” the funk returns, a bit mellower and with a New Orleans flavor.
Here’s hoping that Owens, now that he has his first album out of his system, brings greater stylistic focus to his next effort. He doesn’t need to take such jarring zigzags to reveal his skill and range—it’s clear in his playing on any one track.
On Wednesday night Owens celebrates the release of Just the Beginning with a gig at the Jazz Showcase. His solid band includes trumpeter David Young, pianist Vince Willis, bassist Brandon Meeks, and drummer Charles Heath. Two singers on “Brighter Days,” David Felton and Crystal Owens, will make appearances as well. The Brooks Middle School Jazz Band opens the show.
photo: James Walker Jr./JazzChicago.net
Dave Kane’s Rabbit Project, The Eye of the Duck (Edition)
David Binney, Third Occasion (Mythology)
John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, Eternal Interlude (Sunnyside)
Alfred Schnittke with the Dresdner Philharmonie, Symphony no. 9 (ECM)
John Zorn, O’o (Tzadik)