USF jazz professor nominated for 4 Grammys

University of South Florida jazz professor Chuck Owen is nominated for four Grammy Awards.

It's music's biggest night, the Grammy Awards! The award show airs at 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday on WTSP.

There are a few names viewers will hear frequently. For example, Jay-Z has eight nominations and Bruno Mars has seven.

Viewers could also hear the name Chuck Owen. He has four nominations and he's from Tampa.

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Owen is a professor of Jazz Studies at the University of South Florida and director of the USF jazz ensemble. His album is "Whispers on the Wind."

This is where Owen spends most of his time creating music at his piano in an office behind his Tampa home.

"Sitting down at a piano with a blank sheet of paper in front of you is a pretty intimidating feeling," Owen said. "Not only are the choices infinite, it's not that I don't have any ideas, it's just that there's too many ideas."

His latest project, "Whispers on the Wind," took Owen about a year and a half to compose, arrange and record with his band The Jazz Surge.

"I'm dealing with 20 some people I'm writing for, each part is written out pretty explicitly," Owen said. "I do leave – because it’s jazz – leave lots of room for improvisations."

The improvisations allow the musicians to express their own creativity leaving their unique mark on the project.

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"They are absolutely critical," Owen said. "Those are notes on a paper and that means nothing to anybody until the musicians realize it."

The songs "Warped Cowboy" and "All Hat, No Saddle" suggest a theme for the album that Owen finds difficult to describe. He said musically he wanted to combine American Folk music with jazz, but there's what he calls an "extra-musical" inspiration.

"It had a lot to do with the American icons, both physical and conceptual and whether those were valid or not and how we perceive those, and it seemed very timely," Owen said.

What is easy to describe, is how he feels about being a Grammy nominee.

"Honestly, getting the nominations is so meaningful that in and of itself is kind of the award," Owen said.

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Chuck and his family will be in New York for the 60th annual Grammy Awards.

Owen's nominations:

  1. "Whispers on the Wind" is up for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.
  2. The song "Warped Cowboy" is up for Best Instrumental Composition.
  3. "All Hat, No Saddle" is up for Best Arrangement, Instrument or A Cappella.
  4. A musician on the album, violinist Sara Caswell, is up for Best Improvised Jazz Solo.

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