Upon looking at this cover, I knew it was jazz but I didn’t know who U.O. (Ulysses Owens Jr.) was or what kind of jazz it was. I know it’s bad to judge a book by its cover, but I thought okay, maybe it’s a bit of soulful jazz (or jazzy soul) and that he was a vocalist. Keep in mind I didn’t read the bio or the liner notes, I just went in and pressed play. Even with a song like “N’Awlins Greens” (the opener), I wasn’t sure what this could be but a minute into it… then two, then three. The core of this CD is not vocals, although two tracks do feature them.
Owens is a drummer, and a damn good one at that. The kind of jazz he plays as part of his Project is the kind of jazz I enjoy listening to a lot, whether it’s bebop, hard bop, funky jazz but not too much, he knows how to play the drums like someone trying to crack open a safe. He knows how to do all the right things at the right times, hold himself back and gently decorate the music, and then just play not only as the leader, but as a team member.
When vocals come into the mix, he allows others to share their talents. In the case of “Stop This Train” (a John Mayer cover), he brings in Alicia Olatuja, who easily makes you forget this is a Mayer song. My favorite track on here is a cover of Sam Rivers‘ “Cyclic Episode”, and out of the many jazz CD’s I receive on a regular basis, Rivers is not exactly a name that pops up along with those within the great American songbook. This is where his Project gets a chance to truly shine, as Sullivan Fortner (Hammond B-3, piano), Ben Williams (acoustic bass), and Tim Green (saxophones) take the long road towards musical ecstasy. For more of that spotlight, also realize that four of the seven songs here are Owens originals, including the tight “T.I.” and “Red Chair”, and Owens sounds incredibly comfortable behind the drum set playing these songs and showing off his skills, and skills he has.
As the title says, it is indeed …Time For U, but are you ready for U? Make yourself ready.