Charles Owens Trio – 10 Years
(La Reserve Records. Album review by Adam Sieff)
Tenor saxophonist Charles Owens (born 1972, and not to be confused with the much older saxophonist and former Buddy Rich and Mongo Santamaria band member Charles Owens, born 1939 ), was part of the New York City jazz community for twelve years, held down a weekly residency at Smalls Jazz Club, recorded six albums as leader and performed with the great and the good including Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Brad Mehldau and Mark Turner.
Now living back home in Charlottesville, Virginia, he’s a mainstay of the vibrant local music scene and that of nearby Richmond. His trio with the Butcher Brown rhythm section of drummer Devon Harris (aka DJ Harrison) and electric bassist Andrew Randazzo has become an established club favourite and they mark their decade playing together by laying down some of their favourite live repertoire.
10 Years is a real snapshot in time, recorded in a single six hour session during July 2020 at Montrose Recording in Richmond, Virginia. It was engineered, mixed and mastered Adrian Olsen and captures all the feel and drive of a live recording but with excellent sound and a modern production.
And what an eclectic song selection this is, there’s Led Zeppelin’s Misty Mountain Hop, Herbie Hancock’s Tell Me A Bedtime Story, Anita Baker’s Caught Up In The Rapture, John Coltrane’s Central Park West, Todd Rundgren’s I Saw The Light, Jaco Pastorius’ Continuum and there’s even Paul Williams’ Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie. There’s only one original song, the uptempo afrobeat opener Cameron The Wise co-written with Cameron Ralston of the Spacebomb House Band, and it’s excellent.
The trio are a superbly tight unit and play with plenty of soul and groove, Harrison and Randazzo give Owens all the support he needs for wherever he wants to take things. Owen’s a fine player with a big warm tone, always sounds in complete control and is happy to keep the tunes straight before taking flight. This is perfectly illustrated on the excellent I Saw The Light which makes the Something-Anything classic sound like a long lost jazz standard.
There’s a wonderful performance of Jimi Hendrix’s If 6 Was 9, complete with judicious use of studio effects giving Owens’ saxophone the psychedelic echo treatment and Harris’ drum solo some nice phasing. There are more subtle reverb effects on the introduction to Central Park West, where Owens plays with tenderness and beauty. Randazzo’s bass solos, particularly on Tell Me A Bedtime Story and naturally Continuum are excellent too, he’s strong on melody with a clear electric tone. Harris is badass throughout, a great drummer.
I love the ‘hit it and quit it’ recording approach with a touch of finesse in the mix – it sounds contemporary and it really works. This is really enjoyable music, and it grooves like crazy.