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MJF67, Sept. 27-29, 2024


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© Rayon Richards
Ulysses Owens Jr.’s Generation Y
  • Grounds Artist
  • Friday, September 27 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm West End Stage Presented by Castoro Cellars

Three-time Grammy® Award-winning drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., known for being a drummer who the New York Times has said “take[s] a back seat to no one,” and “a musician who balances excitement gracefully and shines with innovation."

Performer, producer and educator Ulysses Owens Jr. goes the limit in the jazz world and beyond; claiming eight successful albums of his own. Owens has also gained special attention for his performances on GRAMMY Award-winning albums by Kurt Elling and The Christian McBride Big Band. In addition to five GRAMMY Award-nominated albums with Joey Alexander, Christian McBride Trio, John Beasley’s Monk’estra, and Gregory Porter.

Both Jazziz and Rolling Stone magazines picked his album Songs of Freedom as a Top Ten Album for 2019 and in 2021, his most recent big band release, Soul Conversations, was voted the top album in May 2021 by Jazziz magazine. Soul Conversations received rave reviews and was added to multiple playlists on Apple Music, Spotify, and Sirius XM; and now the band is touring nationally. The Ulysses Owens Jr. Big Band has also been voted “Rising Star Big Band” of 2022 by DownBeat magazine.

His upcoming eighth album release, A New Beat, will feature his new “Generation Y” Band on the Cellar Jazz record label. The album was produced by Jeremy Pelt and recorded at the legendary Rudy Van Gelder Studios, in New Jersey.

As an author Ulysses has published two books: Jazz Brushes for the Modern Drummer: An Essential Guide to the Art of Keeping Time and The Musicians Career Guide: Turning Your Talent into Sustained Success, distributed by Simon and Schuster. His third book, Jazz Big Band for the Modern Drummer: The Essential Guide to the Large Ensemble, for Hal Leonard Publications was released in January 2024. He is also a regular contributing writer for the WJCT Jacksonville Music Experience, DownBeat, Jazz Times, Percussive Arts Journal, and is an op-ed contributor to the Florida Times-Union Newspaper.

As an educator, Ulysses has been part the jazz faculty at The Juilliard School as Small Ensemble Director for over seven years and has served on the EDIB (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging) committee. He has also served on multiple panels and taught various workshops within the Alan D. Marks Entrepreneurship division. He is also the Artistic Director for his family’s arts non-profit organization in Jacksonville, Florida called “Don’t Miss A Beat,” and is the newly appointed Artistic Director for the Friday Musicale Summer Jazz Camp in Jacksonville Florida. He has a three-year appointment as the Educational Artist in Residence for SF Performances in San Francisco, Calif. He has also recently been asked to join the Drumeo Online Educational Platform as their Inaugural Jazz Drum Instructor and is developing the curriculum for his interactive course, “30 Days to Becoming a Jazz Drummer” that will launch in June, 2024.

Ulysses remains consistently in demand for new projects and consulting opportunities and is one of the most sought-after thought-leaders of his generation. Yet what matters to him consistently is giving back and continuing to be grateful for a new day to make a difference in the lives of others.

Ulysses received his Bachelor Fine Arts from The Juilliard School in 2006 and was the first African American jazz drummer to be admitted to their inaugural Jazz Program in 2001. He is currently slated to pursue his Master’s Degree in Jazz Performance and Arts Administration at Florida State University in the fall of 2024.

Generation Y is a band concept that was conceived back in 2019 with the goal promoting the next generation of dynamic talent from the top music conservatories in New York City and beyond and is led by Ulysses Owens Jr., the a multi Grammy Award-winning drummer, producer, educator, author and cultural entrepreneur.

Serving at The Juilliard School in the role of Small Ensemble Director within the Jazz Department for the last eight years has given Ulysses a front row seat to this Generation’s top talent. Ulysses Owens Jr., has been the driving force behind such great artists as Nicholas Payton, Christian McBride, Wynton Marsalis, Mulgrew Miller, Joey Alexander, and many others. Through his relationship with these great bandleaders he learned of the legacy of Art Blakey and Betty Carter, both of whom were renowned for their own bands (which became educational institutions) and launched the careers of many of today’s paradigm-shifting musicians on the jazz scene. Generation Y is an updated model of the Jazz Messengers, and many of these band members also perform in Ulysses’ big band.

The band just recorded their debut album A New Beat that was released on the Cellar Live Record label in January 2024. The material on this album is a culmination of repertoire from Ulysses’ influences and mentors like Mulgrew Miller, Roy Hargrove, George Cables, and of course, the great Art Blakey.

This album also features a few original compositions from Benny Benack, Anthony Hervey, and the very talented Luther Allison who is an emerging talent performing with Grammy Award-winning vocalist, Samara Joy, as her pianist. The album also features a classic from Louis Armstrong titled “Heart Full of Rhythm” featuring Milton Suggs, which learned during his time as the Louis Armstrong Museum “Armstrong Now Artist in Residence.”

This album is a culmination of repertoire that has been performed by this band around the world over the last four years and to add another level of nostalgia, it was recorded at the legendary Rudy Van Gelder Studios in Englewood, New Jersey.