Buffalo News, April 2013

Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge, “River Runs: A Concerto for Jazz Guitar, Saxophone and Orchestra” (Summit). Among the greater misfortunes ever to befall jazz was Gunther Schuller’s name “third stream” to brand as new and brave etc. etc. etc. a combination of modern jazz and modern classical music that, in fact, couldn’t possibly have occurred more naturally and logically. When you hear Chuck Owen’s great tribute to the powers of nature with his superb big band the Jazz Surge as well as a symphony orchestra, you’ll be reminded of how superbly and naturally the greatest composers of “third stream music” (who didn’t include Schuller but rather went by such familiar jazz names as John Lewis, J.J. Johnson and Jimmy Giuffre) made music that didn’t require any of what modern listeners might understand as “OMG” Italics. The soloists with Owens’ band here are tenor saxophonist Jack Wilkins and guitarist LaRue Nickelson. Among those in full support of what Owen has done here are Dave Liebman, Rufus Reid, Bob Belden and Randy Brecker (who rather nicely paid tribute to Owens’ “Ocean of Melody, Sound and Soul”). We’re hearing musical tributes to the Everglades and various rivers, all of which alter, with almost no effort whatsoever, all understanding of jazz as a strictly urban music. It is, as Owen reminds us quite beautifully, much, much bigger than that.

-Jeff Simon