Dennis Owsley

Jazz Unlimited Host

Dennis Owsley has been hosting a weekly radio show on St. Louis Public Radio since 1983. He has been a jazz album collector, aficionado, and historian since 1958 and has seen most of the major artists in jazz in live performance.

Owsley wrote an award-winning book, City of GabrielsThe Jazz History of St. Louis 1895-1973.

Nearly all the music heard on Jazz Unlimited is from Owsley's personal collection. He is gaining an international reputation as a photographer of jazz musicians as well.

Ways to Connect

Jazz Unlimited for July 5 will be “The Music of Red Garland.”  Pianist William “Red” Garland was born in Dallas, Texas and was an integral part of Miles Davis’s 1950’s groups and recorded prolifically for Prestige.  He developed a never repeated block chord technique that gave a shimmering sound to his playing.  Early in his life, Red was a middleweight boxer, fighting a young Ray Robinson.  He gave up boxing to save his hands, but his left-hand rhythms bounced with the rhythm of a boxer.  Red Garland was active from the early 1950’s until 1962, when he returned to Dallas to care for his ai

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Jazz Unlimited for June 28, 2016 will present “Remembering Ray Kennedy and Ornette Coleman + New Music.”  St.

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Jazz Unlimited for Sunday, June 21 will be “The Music of Charles Mingus.”  Bassist, composer and bandleader Charles Mingus was born in Nogales, Arizona, raised in Los Angeles and was part of an experimental music scene in the late 1940’s that developed around Lloyd Reese.  At the time, he had no peers who had his technique.  We will hear some of his early music, some of his compositions and some of his compositions played by others.  In addition, we will debut two of his recently discovered compositions.

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The Jazz Unlimited show for June 14, 2105 is “West Coast Jazz-Part 2.”  The jazz of the Left Coast in the 1950’s followed the Eastern trends in it’s own way and was widely condemned by the Right Coast jazz critics.  It was popular because it was heard in films and TV shows of the time and also because of good distribution by West Coast record labels.  We will hear music presented chronologically from 1956-1960 by the Bill Perkins Octet, the Vince Guaraldi Trio, he Jimmy Giuffre Three, the Curtis Counce Quintet, The Hampton Hawes Quartet with Jim Hall.

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Jazz Unlimited for June 7, 2015 is  “West Coast Jazz-Part 1.”  Known as “West Coast Jazz,” the very popular music of Los Angeles and San Francisco in the 1950’s was widely condemned by the eastern jazz critics mainly because it was not based in New York.  The music followed the east coast trends but sounded lighter and was more experimental.  This week’s show will cover the years 1950-1956 chronologically and will have 38 performances of the music which feature Dave Brubeck, Wardell Gray, Hampton Hawes, the Stan Kenton Orchestra, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Shelly Manne, Shorty Rogers, Bud

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Jazz Unlimited for May 31, 2015 will be “Jazz Giants for May and June.”  Throughout its history, certain key players have heavily influenced the course of jazz.  These Jazz Giants are the ones that lesser players imitate and copy.  Jazz Unlimited always plays the Jazz Giants instead of the imitators.  Sunday night’s music will feature Bix Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer, Joe “King” Oliver, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, Shelly Manne, Freddie Redd, Betty Carter, Woody Herman, Eric Dolphy, Chick Corea, Bud Shank, Bill Holman, Betty Carter and Sun Ra.

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Jazz Unlimited for May 24, 2015 will be “The Keys ad Strings Hour/New Music.”  The quieter side of jazz will present music by Oscar Peterson, Gene Harris and Errol Garner.  During the hour, we will hear new music by Regina Carter’s Southern Comfort, Roger Kellaway and two piano/bass duets between John Hicks and Richard Davis and Kenny Barron and Dave Holland.  The new music segment will segment will have recordings from Art Blakey and the Jazz Giants, Benny Green, the SFJazz Collective, the Palmetto All-Stars, Chris Potter’s Underground Orchestra, Daniel Bennett, Levon Mikaelian and the Uni

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Jazz Unlimited for May 17 is  “The Music of Joe Lovano.”  Born in Cleveland into a family whose father was a well-respected local tenor sax player, Joe Lovano is now one of the leading saxophonists in jazz.  We will hear him with his own groups and with Hank Jones, the Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra, his wife vocalist Judi Silvano, Michel Petrucciani, Gunther Schuller, John Scofield, Saxophone Summit, Tom Harrell, Paul Motian, Grand Slam, Charlie Haden, the Byron Olson Orchestra, Dave Douglas, Ravi Coltrane and McCoy Tyner.

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Jazz Unlimited for May 10, 2015 will be “Exploring Kind of Blue.”  Miles Davis’s iconic album is the best selling jazz album in history.  By changing the harmonic underpinnings of the music from many chords to few chords with scales that related to them, known as modes, the music became light and airy and more approachable.  We will explore all of the tunes in this album with big bands, vocalists and small groups.  Some of the groups and musicians heard tonight include the Miles Davis sextet, the Grant Green quartet, the J.J.

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Jazz Unlimited for May 3 is “The Career of Pee Wee Russell.”  Clarinetist Pee Wee Russell was born in Maplewood Missouri in 1906.  All of his life, he was a contrarian who went his own way.  Even though he was a very original voice, Pee Wee was very shy and people laughed at him because he looked like a clown.  Whitney Balliet remarked that, “even his feet look sad.”  During his career, Balliet noted that he worked with the wrong musicians most of his life and during the last seven or eight years worked with musicians he should have been working with his entire life.  He also became a very

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Jazz Unlimited for April 26 will be “The Billie Centenary and New Music.”  Vocalist Billie Holiday set the standards for jazz vocals from the 1930’s up until today.  They are emotional honesty, good time and swing.  Very few have even attempted (unsuccessfully) to imitate her.  She will be heard singing both live and in studio singing from 1935 to 1957.  Her accompanists include Roy Eldridge, Lester Young, Benny Goodman, Ben Webster, Teddy Wilson, the Esquire All-Stars, the Jazz at the Philharmonic All-Stars, the Count Basie Band, the Artie Shaw band, the Eddie Heywood Orchestra, Carl Drink

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Jazz Unlimited for April 19 will be “The Music of Herbie Hancock.”  Jazz Master Herbie Hancock has been actively been writing, performing and recording his original music for 54 years.  His early success with Blue Note records and with Miles Davis provided a springboard for an exceptionally creative life.  He has written and performed in several different styles of music.  Born in Chicago, he was recognized as a prodigy, playing a movement the 26th Mozart Piano Concerto with the Chicago Symphony at age 12.  He simultaneously earned engineering and music degrees from Grinnell College.  His e

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Jazz Unlimited for April 12 will be “The Compositions of Duke Ellington.”   Duke Ellington was one of the great composers of the 20th century.  His work lives on by continual performances and recordings by many artists in many musical genres.  We will focus on some longer compositions played by the maestro and mainly lesser-known compositions by other artists including Brooks Kerr, the Empire Brass, Betty Roche, the Either/Orchestra, Kurt Elling, Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley, the Concord Jazz Festival All-Stars, Ella Fitzgerald, Dr.

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Jazz Unlimited show for Sunday, April 5 will be “The Music of Joe Henderson-Part 2.”   Tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson was comfortable playing with musicians whose styles ranged from hard bop to avant-garde.  In Part 2 of the music of Joe Henderson, we will hear him with Kenny Dorham, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Lee Konitz, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Bebop and Beyond, John Scofield, Freddie Hubbard and his own groups.

The Slide Show contains my photographs of some of the musicians heard on this show.

William C. Gottlieb / Copyright William C. Gottlieb from the Library of Congess Collection

The Sunday, March 29 Jazz Unlimited show is “Jazz Giants for March and April.”  These musicians are the ones who have changed the way we listen to jazz.  They have set the styles.  These musicians include Bix Beiderbecke, Harry Carney, Lionel Hampton, Nat “King” Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Gerry Mulligan, Carmen McRae, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Larry Coryell, Thad Jones, Charles Mingus, Pee Wee Russell, Johnny Griffin, Red Norvo, Sarah Vaughan, Randy Weston, Billie Holiday, Jim Hall, George Adams, Paul Chambers, George Coleman, Herbie Hancock, Charles Lloyd, Lennie Tristano, Charles Tolliver, Joe Hen

New Music

Mar 22, 2015
Dennis C. Owsley / Copyright Dennis C. Owsley

Please join me tonight on Jazz Unlimited from 9:00 pm to midnight for “New Music.”  This show consists entirely of new music.  The Keys and Strings hour features a new 1977 recording of the Red Garland Trio, the Mark Wade Trio, the Avashai Cohen trio, Albert “Tootie’ Heath’s Philadelphia Beat trio, and solo pianist Lara Downes playing two tunes from the Billy Holiday songbook.  The second and third hours of the show feature new music St.

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Jazz Unlimited March 15, 2015 will present “The Music of Joe Henderson-Part 1.”  Tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson came on the scene in 1963.  He brought a unique sound, style and conception to his music.  This show will feature him with his own groups and such musicians as Grant Green, Bobby Hutcherson, Horace Silver, Woody Shaw, the Wynton Kelly Trio, Lee Morgan, Larry Young, Andrew Hill, Charlie Haden and Al Foster.  In addition, his compositions will be sung and played by Judy Niemack, Janice Borla, the Blue Wisp Big Band, James Williams, Stanley Clarke and the Conrad Herwig “Latin Side o

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Jazz Unlimited for Sunday, March 8 will be “Jazz Musicians with Long Performance Careers. Part 4.”  Like their classical counterparts, most major jazz musicians have long performing careers.  Jazz musicians who die young are not the norm, but in many cases, it is these musicians we choose to remember.  The last jazz Unlimited show in this series will feature 54 musicians with performing careers of over 50 years.  These musicians include St.

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Jazz Unlimited for Sunday, March 1 will be “Remembering Clark Terry.”  One of our national treasures, St. Louis trumpeter and jazz educator Clark Terry died February 21 at the age of 94.  We will hear approximately 28 minutes of his voice, telling stories about his life.  The music will include Clark with Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, Benny Carter, Duke Ellington, his own Big B-A-D Band, Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins, the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band, St. Louisan Chris Woods, Abbey Lincoln, Tubby Hayes, J.J. Johnson and Lee Konitz.

Jazz Unlimited with host Dennis Owsley will air Sunday, February 22 at 9 p.m.

This week's show will be “Keys and Strings Hour and Other Music.”  The quieter side of jazz will mainly feature compositions by pianist Elmo Hope.  Herbie Nichols will present two of his compositions while pianist Myra Melford will also be heard.  

Other music will feature Charlie Haden and Hank Jones, Peter Appleyard, Catherine Russell, Donald Byrd and Gigi Gryce, Les McCann, Stanley Turrentine, Bobby Hutcherson, Matt Wilson, Herbie Hancoek, Keith Jarrett, Jonathan Blake and Ravi Coltrane.