Sunday, July 01, 2012

Ulysses Owens Jr - NYC Jazz Record

Ulysses Owens Jr - Unanimous

Ulysses Owens Jr., possessor of the mighty
mythological name and mightier sense of swing, makes
his bandleading debut with this album. To help him, he
expertly employs a handful of his own employers as
well as some of the sidemen who shared those dates.
Owens is quoted in the liner notes discussing the
importance of the Young Lions era: “There was a lot of
great jazz during the ‘90s…even if people were trying
different stuff, everyone’s focus was still on swinging.”
And here Owens does just that with help from
trumpeter Nicholas Payton, who contributes to slightly
more than half the album, and bassist Christian

It is the latter’s presence that is felt most heavily
on this album. McBride has employed Owens for the
last two years in his swinging trio alongside pianist
Christian Sands, who appears here as well. It’s been 18
years since McBride’s debut as a leader and that album,
Gettin’ To It, has a lingering influence over Unanimous
in its urgent sense of instrumentation and dedication
to unapologetic swing.

The impeccable horn section (Payton, trombonist
Michael Dease and saxophonist Jaleel Shaw) blast
through the first two tunes. “Good and Terrible”, a
Dease original, is a ten-minute workout that introduces
the bandmember through their well-constructed solos.
“Con Alma”, the ever-present Dizzy Gillespie standard,
is grounded by Owens’ splashing cymbals and lifted
by Payton’s soaring solo. Owens’ lone original,
“Beardom X”, is a meditative tune that gets a fiery
contribution from Shaw.

The album closes out with three trio selections.
The years of working together are evident in the classic
piano trio sound. McBride channels his best Ray Brown
as Sands plops down a brief but brilliant solo on “You
Make Me Feel So Young”. “Cherokee” gets a murderous
tempo and Owens’ cymbals are a blur until the
waltzing bridge cuts things in half. He and McBride
trade blistering solos as both men compete to see who
can ignite their instrument first.

These men are committed swingers and their
sound is refreshing in a throwback way. Anyone
concerned about the disappearance of straight swing
need look no further than the final third of this album.
The tradition is safe and still going places.

Ulysses Owens Jr @ NYC Jazz Record

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