Mainly Big Bands (U.K.), Dec. 2004

“Art music is a tough sell” admits Chuck Owen in his liner notes to his new compact disc. Well ‘Art’ music is not a term I am familiar with and I have to confess that the expression, although it is probably a fair way to describe the music, does give a wrong impression. Rightly or wrongly I imagine ‘Art’ music as inaccessible, self-serving, and rejoicing in it’s ability to confuse. I would prefer to rely on the reliable expression ‘cutting edge’.

In fact this is an imaginatively conceived exploration of the landscape of large jazz ensemble music. Perhaps going that extra mile to demonstrate that cliché free ensemble writing enhanced by imaginative soloing by kindred spirits can produce an emotional entity that will thrill, excite, and expand your perception of the big band.

Owen here is blessed with extraordinary appropriate soloists, including guest trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, violinist Rob Thomas, and organist Gary Versace. Each and every one resists the opportunity to bend the usual rules for dramatic effect and concentrates on enhancing the musical adventure within this inspiring musical adventure.

This CD asks a little of the listener. Far from being superficial this is an experience that will delight those who expect and enjoy some demands in their music, perhaps it will try the patience of those seeking formula writing and arranging. Those who do buy this CD knowing all that awaits, are in for a rewarding experience.

-J.R. Killoch