Not quite the household name, but you should know that Calvin Owens acquired his razor sharp experience performing at many of the greatest concert halls and music festivals throughout the world while he served as music director and held the lead trumpet chair for the one and only King of the Blues, Mr. B.B. King. Calvin was also an arranger, conductor and trumpet soloist on several B.B Kings albums: “Live in Ole Miss”, and “Live in London”, where Owens conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London. In 1984 Calvin was part of the winning team receiving a Grammy Award for BB’s album “Blues N’ Jazz”. Additionally, Owens arranged and conducted several television programs, including the Merv Griffin Show, The Jack Jones Show, Austin City Limits, and Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Calvin also recorded six original compositions for the Belgian Radio & Television with the B.R.T. jazz orchestra. Mr. Owens also toured Europe and the States with the legendary Arnett Cobb as band arranger and trumpet soloist.
Now, lets roll forward to 2004, as Owens steps out on his own, performing some of the best blues based musicians known to the world today with “Keeping Big Band Blues ALIVE”, his sixth CD credited in his own name, on his own Sawdust Alley Record label, '
The Calvin Owens Show captures your attention immediately with a wonderful arrangement of “Hucklebuck” which Calvin tells me was the original Lucky Millender arrangement of the very same tune included within. Calvin recently caught Lucky’s performance of “Hucklebuck” on late night TV, which moved Calvin so deeply, that he decided to include his version of this classic track. Gloria Edwards is one powerful vocalist; she needs to be to be to able to perform on top of this very powerful horn section on “I Gotcha Hootchie Mama”. Vocalist Bert Wills shows off his vocal chops on the bluesy “If the Blues Come Roun’ ” which also features a scorching guitar solo by Charles Davis, and a gorgeous trumpet break by Mr. Owens. The smooth “Love on a Silver Platter” is really catchy and sweet, and could easily find its way on to many jazz stations play lists, proving that this recording is not just a blues affair.
Trudy Lynn and the great Jazz Crusader’s sax man Wilton Felder hook up on “Come on Home Baby” offering some neat stop and go big band charts, outstanding vocals from the not heard often enough Miss Lynn, and a energetic guest solo by Mr. Felder. Get sanctified with the B3 groove on the gospel traditional “This Little Light of Mine” complete with blessed background vocals, and Calvin steps out to not only show off his trumpet skills but also his vocal chops.
“H-Town French Town Git Down” will run you over with its driving beat, thrilling horn charts, and yet another dynamic performance by vocalist Gloria Edwards. Many of Calvin Owens recordings often include a Christmas track, and “Keeping the Big Band Blues ALIVE” is no exception with a real cool version of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”. The CD closes with the extremely funky “Stop the Clock” with kicking/thumping bass lines from Keith Vivens, and sophisticated super charged horn charts throughout.
Folks unfortunately they don’t make disks like this anymore, as these Texan’s know how to make a record. “Keeping Big Band Blues ALIVE” sizzles with great vocal performances, top shelf soloists, and explosive horn charts, delivering yet another goodun’ from the multi faceted and very talented Mr. Owens, making this CD recommended listening for your ears and collection.
President NY Blues & Jazz, and radio
host @ WFDU’s, “Sounds of Blue”