Sax nice Charles Owens counts Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, Marvin Gaye amongst previous collaborators

The yr was 1972 and Charles Owens’ fame as one of the gifted and versatile younger musicians in Los Angeles was rising by the day.

On the time, Owens — who’d already earned consideration for his sterling work with drum legend Buddy Wealthy and Latin-jazz nice Mongo Santamaria — was a member of an all-star Anglo-American band led by English blues king John Mayall.

However that didn’t cease former San Diego music iconoclast Frank Zappa from in search of to lure fellow former San Diegan Owens away from Mayall.

“I might have stayed with Mayall and made ‘Grand Theft Auto’ dough!” recalled Owens, who seems within the Oscar-profitable movie “La La Land” and teaches a weekly jazz efficiency class at UCLA’s Herb Alpert Faculty of Music.

“However I selected Frank, as a result of his music was far more difficult. We have been enjoying all kinds of time signatures and it was probably the greatest musical durations of my life.”

Owens, who grew up in San Diego and counted fellow saxophonist Arthur Blythe as one among his closest buddies right here, chuckled.

“I acquired that gig with Frank as a result of he needed a tenor sax participant who additionally performed oboe,” Owens stated from his house in Los Angeles. “And I simply occurred to have studied oboe at SDSU and was enjoying it in Los Angeles.”

He was beneficial to Zappa by yet one more former San Diegan, jazz sax luminary Harold Land.

However tenor sax and oboe have been simply the tip of Owens’ musical arsenal. The demand for him in Los Angeles, New York and past stemmed from the very fact Owens might carry out with equal talent on alto, soprano and baritone saxophones, piccolo, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, oboe, English horn and bassoon.

Along with his spectacular work as a solo artist, his credit embrace acting on albums by Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, B.B. King, Dr. John, Terry Callier, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Michael Bublé, Eddie Harris and San Diego’s rollicking Jeannie & Jimmy Cheatham and The Candy Child Blues Band.

“I nonetheless play with the identical enthusiasm I’ve all the time had,” stated Owens, eighty, who performs Friday on the all-ages Dizzy’s. He’ll be accompanied by former Miles Davis/Roberta Flack bassist Marshall Hawkins, guitarist Bob Boss and drummer Richard Sellers.

“What makes it enjoyable is that I’m an previous man who can nonetheless play. I don’t have any again ache and my knees don’t harm. A few of my buddies are in wheelchairs — or they’ve handed away from most cancers or smoking and consuming an excessive amount of.

“’I’m blessed. I’m nonetheless alive, nonetheless have enjoyable enjoying and every day is a brand new journey. I can’t categorical how pleased I’m to rise up and play. It’s such a pleasure! So come out to Dizzy’s and see an previous dude having a great time with a few of his associates.”

Dizzy’s was additionally the place the late San Diego jazz legend Daniel Jackson, Owens’ longtime mentor, often carried out. As a youngster, Owens performed sax in Tommy Wilkins & The Home-Rockers, a raucous R&B and rock band that additionally featured Ted Picou.

Fellow saxophonist Blythe performed within the rival band The Blue Notes, and he and Owens would typically interact in pleasant musical “duels” to attempt to out-do one another on the bandstand. The 2 would additionally carry out within the weekly Sunday jam periods on the Douglas Lodge in downtown San Diego.

Whereas attending SDSU — then often known as San Diego State School — within the mid-Nineteen Fifties, Owens would jam with fellow saxophone scholar Gary LeFebvre in the course of the day. At night time, he would play gigs with trumpeter Fro Brigham’s band.

“I met Daniel once I acquired over to Logan Elementary, and he was like a mentor to all of us. He knew all of the chords and I discovered ‘Take the “A” Practice’ and ‘Tea for Two’ from him. He’d come by my home and he’d play piano and I’d play sax. Then, I’d play piano and he’d play sax.

“Something I wanted to find out about any bebop songs, I’d ask Daniel. He was swinging already again then and appeared hip. He appeared like a jazz musician, even in highschool! And Teddy was very encouraging. He helped me discover ways to solo and was very affected person with me. Typically, I’d get so discouraged that I couldn’t play like Charlie Parker, and Ted would say: ‘It doesn’t come in a single day.”

Owens spent years educating at music at UCLA and UC Irvine, and co-based the Los Angeles Wind School with John Carter, Pink Callender and James Newton.

His previous college students embrace such famous saxophonists as Kamasi Washington, Azar Lawrence and Kool & The Gang/Gerald Wilson Orchestra veteran Louis Van Taylor.

Are there sure qualities and expertise Owens tries to impart in all of his college students?

“I would like them to have the ability to learn nicely, improve their vary and concentrate on who they’re enjoying with,” he replied.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with individuals like Azar, who was 18 or 19 when he got here to me. He performed the music and — after a few classes — I stated to him: ‘Man, you ought to only go to New York, since you received it!’ Then, I hooked him up with Elvin Jones.

“Kamasi was going to UCLA once I was nonetheless in control of educating the saxophone courses there. I needed him to extend his vary a bit. There’s all the time one thing you possibly can add to somebody’s enjoying. I needed him to have the ability to play larger, above F and above common written notes. I simply tweaked his enjoying just a little, as a result of Kamasi was an entire product already. When he rose as much as play, you had higher get out of the best way, as a result of he’d knock you over!”

Owens’ most up-to-date album, “Pleasure,” got here out in 2011. It groups him with pianist Mulgrew Miller, bass nice Ron Carter and drummer Lewis Nash.

“It value me an arm and a leg to document it at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in New Jersey, however I’m elated with the way it turned out,” Owens stated.

“I need to do as a lot enjoying as I can, particularly since I’m semi-retired. I ended most of my educating to focus on enhancing myself. I’m getting higher. I’m nonetheless enhancing and enthusiastic about enjoying.”

Charles Owens on working with …

Frank Zappa: “Frank was sensible. Something he wrote out for anyone else he might play on guitar, for those who wanted to listen to your half.”

Marvin Gaye: “He was a blessing. On the final album I did with him (‘Right here, My Pricey’), he sang everyone’s elements — what he needed the drummer to play, the bass, the piano, the saxophone. He was particular. When it got here time to soloing, he didn’t care what you performed. At the moment, I assumed I used to be Archie Shepp or Albert Ayler and performed utterly outdoors solos. Marvin didn’t bat an eye fixed, and he made all of it work.”

Buddy Wealthy: “I used to be mystified by Buddy’s drum method. He might play a 9-stroke roll on his snare drum and a 9-stroke roll together with his foot on his bass drum. No different drummer on the earth might do this! And he was the primary white man I met who wasn’t prejudiced. He was the good cat, a genius drummer, and a fantastic psychologist who knew easy methods to encourage individuals.”

The Charles Owens Quartet, that includes Marshall Hawkins, Bob Boss and Richard Sellers

When: eight p.m. Friday

The place: Dizzy’s, Arias Corridor (behind the Musician’s Affiliation constructing), 1717 Morena Blvd., Bay Park

Tickets: $20

Telephone: (858) 270-7467


Twitter @georgevarga

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