Born: June 7, 1982 Primary Instrument: Trumpet
The arrival of Brian Owen on the jazz scene was not accompanied by fanfare promising a new era. Rather, critics and audiences saw an artist who had worked diligently through his formal studies and made progress on his most important artistic assignment, finding a voice that resonated with him and with his listeners.
A trumpeter, composer and band leader, Owen was born on June 7th, 1982, in Everett, Washington. He took up the trumpet in his early teens and made rapid headway in music and academic work. Aided by the Running Start program, he managed to complete high school and community college simultaneously.
When Owen moved on to Central Washington University, noted for its jazz studies curriculum, bassist and singer Kristin Korb was in charge of the jazz program. Korb stimulated his evolution as a soloist and encouraged his potential as a composer. At Central, Owen also came under the wing of the late Thomas Gause, a professor of trumpet who was himself a masterly jazz soloist. He studied further with former Seattle Symphony Orchestra principal trumpet Charles Butler and the trumpet-saxophone-flute master Jay Thomas. Throughout his evolution as a trumpeter, Owen’s abilities landed him assignments as a featured soloist.
After college graduation, he worked as a cruise ship musician, employment that many musicians suffer out of financial necessity. Typically, Owen seized on the experience as a means of growth in music and business. With the Carnival line, his ability to organize resulted in his being promoted to musical director. On the ships, he led a show band while at the same time managing half a dozen other bands. He was responsible for handling rosters of musicians, scheduling, leading rehearsals, arranging, and, of course, playing. He learned how to juggle his roles as perfomer, leader, counseling psychiatrist and buffer between his musicians and his cruise line bosses. It intensified his understanding of both music and management and might have set him up to become a music businessman. “If I ever wanted a desk job,” he says, “I’m sure I could handle it with ease now. But I wanted something more artistic than that.”
Owen took advantage of his sparse time off aboard the ships to refine his artistry as a writer of music, often giving up sleep to develop the pieces he was ultimately to record on Unmei. When he had the album material ready to take into the studio, Owen recruited Jay Thomas, pianist John Hansen, bassist John Hamar and drummer Phil Parisot, putting him in the company of some of the West Coast’s leading jazz musicians. Upon finishing the recording, Jay Thomas declared, “Brian is a complete musician. He is his own man musically. He is not copying anyone’s music. I find that refreshing.” Brian Owen’s career as a recording artist was underway, with impressive results.