Chuck Owen is Distinguished University Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of South Florida. A nationally respected educator, having established USF’s acclaimed jazz program, he is recognized equally for his unique compositional voice; one steeped thoroughly in the jazz tradition but drawing on a diverse array of additional influences from contemporary classical and American folk/roots music to Latin styles, funk, hip-hop, . . . even country! The result is an evocative, thoughtful, and frequently quite playful/joyous body of work.
The recipient of a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship and five individual GRAMMY nominations, Owen has written for or had his compositions performed by the: Netherlands’ Metropole Orch., WDR Big Band (Cologne, Germany), Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orch., Tonight Show Orchestra, Brussels Jazz Orch., Aarhus Jazz Orch. (Denmark), Scottish National Jazz Orch., Cincinnati Symphony, US Army Jazz Ambassadors and numerous others.
Owen’s primary creative outlet, however, has been his own 19-piece Jazz Surge. Founding the ensemble in 1995, Owen serves as conductor, primary composer/arranger, and producer of its six highly-feted CDs, including: River Runs (2013), a stunning 5 movement genre-bending work Rufus Reid described as, “. . . . .a tour de force of contemporary orchestral composition” and the Huffington Post called, “a masterpiece of aural sounds”, and The Comet’s Tail (2009), critically acclaimed as “riotous and joyous” (JazzTimes), “muscular” (Downbeat), and “deserving of universal attention” (All Music Guide). Both recordings garnered Grammy nominations with Chuck individually honored in 2014 with Grammy nominations for both Best Instrumental Composition & Best Instrumental Arrangement.
The Jazz Surge’s most recent project, Whispers On the Wind, expands on the American folk and roots leanings of River Runs enlisting the evocative violin of Sara Caswell, the luminescent harmonica of Gregoire Maret, and an array of acoustic guitars deftly played by Corey Christiansen. In it, Owen has created a sound that is drenched in atmosphere – at times buoyant, playful, and triumphant . . . . at others, melancholy, mysterious, and intimate – but always coming straight out of the American heartland. Feted with four 2018 GRAMMY nominations (for Best Large Jazz Ensemble recording, Best Instrumental Composition, Best Instrumental Arrangement, and Best Jazz Solo – Sara Caswell) the reviews have been similarly glowing:
“creative, poetic . . . . wildly personal” – Jeff Simon, Buffalo News
“ an impressive melding of Montana and 52nd St.” – George Harris, Jazz Weekly
“ episodic, dramatic, and picturesque.” – Scott Yanow, NY City Jazz Record
“. . . an impossibly winsome combination of slow burn with spontaneous combustion.
“Reality on a sizzling hot silver platter.” – Carol Bank Weber, Medium.com
Owen presently serves as the founding President of ISJAC (International Society of Jazz Arrangers & Composers). Previously he has served as President of the International Association for Jazz Education, as a “Governor” for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and as a panelist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music (Chair), the National Endowment for the Arts, the Grammy Awards, and numerous regional arts associations. He has produced four international conferences and several jazz festivals.
The Director of the USF Jazz Ensemble for over 30 years, he has led the group in performances at international jazz festivals as well as with renowned guest artists. He is the recipient of the USF President’s Award for Faculty Excellence as well as both the Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award and Outstanding Research Award.