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

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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.

Jazz Unlimited for February 15 is  “Jazz Musicians With Long Performance Careers-Part 3.”  While many jazz fans think that jazz musicians die young, data shows that this is not the case.  The month of February will be devoted to the music of over 200 major jazz artists who have performing careers of fifty years and longer.  Some of the 66 musicians heard in various combinations on this show include St. Louisans Red McKenzie, Trebot Tichenor, Singleton Palmer, Gus Perryman, Herb Drury, Dave Venn, Don Cunningham, Marion Miller,  Freddie Washington, John Hicks, and Willie Akins.

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Jazz Unlimited for February 8 will be  “Jazz Musicians With Long Performance Careers-Part 2.”  While many jazz fans think that jazz musicians die young, data shows that this is not the case.  The month of February will be devoted to the music of over 200 major jazz artists who have performing careers of fifty years and longer.  Some of the 78 musicians heard in various combinations on tonight’s show are Ernestine Anderson, Benny Goodman, Mary Lou Williams, Abdullah Ibrahim, Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Quincy Jones, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Ella Fitzgerald.

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Please join me on Jazz Unlimited Sunday, February 1 from 9:00 pm to midnight for “Jazz Musicians With Long Performance Careers-Part 1.”  While many jazz fans think that jazz musicians die young, data shows that this is not the case.  The month of February will be devoted to the music of over 200 major jazz artists who have performing careers of fifty years and longer.  Some of the 72 musicians heard on tonight’s show are George Shearing, Clark Terry, Flip Phillips, Illinois Jacquet, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, Lee Konitz, Ahmad Jamal, Charlie Haden, Charles Lloyd, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Su

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Jazz Unlimited for Sunday, January 25 will be “Gershwin-Part 4: Classical Compositions + New Music”  Gershwin’s classical compositions have also resonated with audiences.  During our keys and strings hour, we will hear his piano roll versions of “An American in Paris,” Rhapsody in Blue” and “Novelette in Fourths” and duets between Gary Burton and Makoto Ozone on “Prelude No.

Heard on "Jasbo Brown Blues," "I Got Plenty O'Nuttin'," "Oh Bess, Oh Where's My Bess" and "There's Dat's Leavin' for New York"
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Jazz Unlimited for Sunday, January 18 will be “Gershwin-Part 3: Porgy and Bess.”  “Porgy and Bess” really resonated with jazz musicians.  Forty versions of it have been recorded since 1950.  This show will feature music from five versions of the opera by: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Cleo Laine and Ray Charles, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Miles Davis and Gil Evans and Joe Henderson.  Additional artists who will be heard are Johnny Hartman, Herbie Hancock, Stefon Harris & Blackout, Shirley Horn, Lynne Arriale, Bennie Wallace, Nina Simone and Fred Hersch.

Heard on "Our Love Is Here To Stay" and "Let;s Call the Whole Thing Off
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Jazz Unlimited for January 11 will be “Gershwin-Part 2: Show, Film and Some Classical Music.”  This is the second part of a month-long listen to jazz versions of Gershwin compositions.  Tonight’s selection of music will include performances by Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, George Gershwin, the Gene Krupa Orchestra, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Urbie Green, Cassandra Wilson, Eric Dolphy & Makanda Ken Mcintyre, Donald Byrd & John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Young, our own Reggie Thomas, Ahmad Jamal, Les McCann and Marcus Roberts.

Heard on "Lady Be Good"
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Jazz Unlimited for January 4, 2015 will be “Gershwin-Part 1: Show Music.”  This is the first part of a month long listen to jazz versions of Gershwin compositions.  Our own Stephanie Trick, Dave Venn, Steve Schenkel, Jay Hungerford, Valerie Tichacek, Kim Portnoy, Ric Vice and Clancy Newell will be heard along with Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Dexter Gordon, Oscar Peterson, Benny Goodman and Shirley Horn, among others.

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

New Music

Dec 27, 2014
Heard on "Tall and Lanky" and "Albert's Blue Sky"
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Jazz Unlimited for Sunday, December 28 will be “New Music.”  This show will start with the “Keys and Strings Hour,” which will feature a new 1974 live recording of the first Keith Jarrett Trio, along with music by stride pianist/vocalist Joe Turner, bassist David Friesen, and pianists Hal Galper and Danny Green.  The second and third hours will present new music from our own Eric Warren, trumpeter Thomas Marriot, the Alex Mercado Trio, the Jim Norton Collective, drummer Ali Jackson, the Bill Warfield Big Band, two versions of the Jeff Coffin Mu’Tet, Dave Liebman, our own Oliver Lake and tru

Heard on Horace Silver's "Peace."
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Jazz Unlimited's show for Sunday, December 21 will be the annual winter holiday show, this time called “Meditations on Peace.”  2014 has been a rough year for our world, our country and our city.  At this time of year many people espouse peace, but do they really mean it?  In 24 different songs containing the word “Peace” in the title and in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Sir William Gladstone, Petra Kelly, John F.

Jazz Unlimited for Sunday, December 14 will be “The Career of Coleman Hawkins: the Father of the Tenor Saxophone."  Coleman Hawkins was the first to recognize the beauty and utility of the tenor saxophone.  Before he came along, it was a novelty instrument.  Since his first recording in 1921, Hawkins has paved the way for a lot of tenor players and influenced many.  He is known as the “father of the tenor saxophone.” We will listen to his 47-year career that includes music with Fletcher Henderson, St.

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Jazz Unlimited for SUnday, December 7 will be  “The Fifty Year Anniversary of the Recording of “A Love Supreme.”  On December 9, 1964, the John Coltrane Quartet entered Rudy Van Gelder’s studio with almost no written music but for a few sketches and what looked like a handwritten poem.  They proceeded to record the album “A Love Supreme,” one of the most important and best selling albums in jazz.  Since that time, three other versions of the work have been recorded along with interpretations of various sections by a number of artists.  We will hear these interpretations played by the Conrad

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Jazz Unlimited for Sunday, November 30 will be “Jazz Giants Born in November and December.”  Jazz Giants are individuals whose sound and approach are instantly identifiable.  Their work has influenced those who came after them.  This show will highlight music from bandleaders Fletcher Henderson, Benny Moten and Toshiko Akiyoshi; pianists Willie “The Lion” Smith, Teddy Wilson, Dave Brubeck, Wynton Kelly, Roger Kellaway, Ray Bryant, Hampton Hawes, and John Hicks; trumpeters Clark Terry, Bunny Berigan and Woody Shaw; saxophonists Serge Chaloff, Phil Woods, Joe Lovano; trombonists Steve Turre a

Food And Drink

Nov 22, 2014
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Jazz Unlimited for Sunday, November 23 will present “Food and Drink.”  Thanksgiving is the season of gluttony and we will present music suggestive of the season, dividing the show into breakfast, lunch, libations and dinner selections.  The artists featured on this show include Bunny Berigan, Phineas Newborn, Jr., Les McCann, Art Tatum, Hank Mobley, Coleman Hawkins, Nat “King” Cole, Billie Holiday, Don Byas, Cyrus Chestnut, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Lee Morgan, Gene Harris, Eddie Harris, Dizzy Gillespie.

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Jazz Unlimited on Sunday, November 16 will be a three-part show.  The Keys and Strings Hour will present duets without horns, while the second hour will be tributes to the late bandleader, composer, arranger and educator Gerald Wilson and the late trumpeter Kenny Wheeler.  The third hour will present new music.  Musicians and groups heard on this show will be a Dick Hyman/Ralph Sutton duet, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Pass, Jim Hall, Mary Lou Williams, Charlie Haden, Chick Corea, Hiromi, Michael Blake, Dayna Stephens, Jane Bunnett, Conrad Herwig and the “Latin Side of Joe Henderson Ensemble,” Cong

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The Sunday, November 9 Jazz Unlimited will present “Interpretations of Monk.”  Thelonious Monk’s compositions are little, quirky gems that are among the most recorded in jazz.  Monk’s distinctive piano playing will not be present as we hear others interpret his tunes.   The Interpretations include 10 vocal recordings, 10 recordings of small groups without horns and nine 9 big band recordings.  Some of the big bands are the Woody Herman Orchestra, the Quincy Jones Orchestra and others.  Vocalists include Carmen McRae, Kevin Mahogany and Denise Jannah, among others.  The small groups include

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Jazz Unlimited on Sunday, November 2 will present music from the 51-year of Armando “Chick” Corea.  Chick was born in the Boston area and was working professionally by his late teens.  His career includes straight-ahead jazz, avant-garde jazz, jazz-rock fusion and classical music.  We will hear music from his groups Return to Forever, Origin, his duets with Gary Burton and his own trio.  He will also be heard with Herbie Hancock, the Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams group, Miles Davis and the Joe Henderson Big Band.  Many of his compositions are now jazz standards and some of them will be played an

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The October 26 Jazz Unlimited will be in three parts.

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Jazz Unlimited for October 19 will be  “Lennie Tristano and His Students.”  Lennie Tristano was one of the first teachers of methods of jazz improvisation.  His piano playing was characterized by dense, emotionally packed and sometimes dissonant sounds.  Tristano's teaching methods recruited students like saxophonists Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, guitarist Billy Bauer, and pianist Sal Mosca, all of whom will be heard on this show.  Konitz and Marsh are two of the most cliche-free improvisers in jazz.

The Slide Show contains images of three of the musicians heard on this show.

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The September 12 Jazz Unlimited show will present “The Music of Thelonious Monk.”  By his early teens, Thelonious Monk was a promising classical pianist.  However, he left this music for jazz because of the freedom of expression it brought him.  This show will present his idiosyncratic piano playing along with 22 of his compositions, all of which are played today by many musicians.  He will be heard with big bands, piano trios and his own quartet.  His music will also be played and sung by others such as the Monk’s Music Trio, The Pocket Brass Band, Danilo Perez, Carmen McRae, Abbey Lincoln

Ray Brown played and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie from 1945 to 1980.
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Jazz Unlimited for Sunday, October 5 will be  “The Music of Dizzy Gillespie.”  Trumpeter, raconteur, composer and sometime vocalist John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie was one of the founding fathers of the jazz style known as bebop, a style whose variants remain the main jazz style today.  Bebop influenced many other music genres, including film scoring and bluegrass.  Dizzy also was instrumental in bringing Latin rhythms into jazz.  We will play music recorded between the years 1939 and 1987, along with some of his compositions played by others.  In addition to Gillespie, Woody Herman, Gonzalo R

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Jazz Unlimited for September 28 will be “Keys and Strings Hour/New Music.”  Piano fireworks and great beauty abound when we present new music from four of the greatest pianists in current jazz.  Chick Corea, Hiromi, Lynne Arriale and Keith Jarrett will be presented in solo, piano duet, piano bass duo and piano trio configurations on the “Keys and Strings Hour.”  The new music segment will feature trumpeter Sean Jones, vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, saxophonist Azar Lawrence, the Dave Liebman Big Band, pianist Kenny Werner, Arturo O’Farril and his orchestra, th

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Jazz Unlimited for September 21 will be “The Music of John Coltrane.”  Saxophonist John Coltrane had the most formidable technique in jazz history.  His influence was so strong that for decades after his death, many saxophonists would base their work on just a six month period of his development.  This show will present music that Coltrane recorded and composed after his spiritual awakening in 1957 that was part of his recovery from heroin use.  Coltrane will be featured with his classic quartet, his quintet with Eric Dolphy, the Africa/Brass big band and with vocalist Johnny Hartman.  Play

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Jazz Unlimited for Sunday, September 14 will be “Remembering Charlie Haden.”  Bassist Charlie Haden was born in Shenandoah, Iowa in 1937 and was raised on a farm.  His family members were musicians who played country and folk music and were on the radio with their own show.  Haden began singing with the group by the age of two and continued until the age of 15 when he contracted polio, turning to bass when he could no longer sing.  He heard classical bass on the radio and became interested in jazz.  He turned down a scholarship to Oberlin College because they had no jazz program.  Charlie m

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The Sunday, September 7 Jazz Unlimited show will be “The Jazz History of St. Louis-Part 10: The Late 2000’s and Current Times.”  Even during the Great Recession, Jazz at the Bistro thrived, bringing in nationally known groups and giving work to local St. Jazz musicians.  Recordings kept being made and both Kim Portnoy and Paul DeMarinis included poetry in their latest recordings.  Dixieland jazz continued to be heard at St. Louis Jazz Club meetings and occasionally at the Sheldon.  Music on this show will be from The St.

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The Jazz Unlimited Sunday, August 31, will be the “Jazz History of St. Louis-Part 9: The Early 2000’s.”  Even though 9/11 put fear into the nation, the St. Louis jazz scene continued to revive until the Great Recession that started in 2007.  After that, gigs were few and far between for several years.  Jazz at the Bistro became one of the great jazz clubs in the world.  The Sheldon continued to bring local and national groups into St. Louis.  The City Bank St. Louis Jazz Festival was in Shaw Park from 2001 to 2008.  Bill Becker’s Victoria Company continued to document St.

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The Jazz Unlimited on Sunday, August 24 will be  “The Jazz History of St. Louis-Part 8: The 1990s-Rebuilding the Scene.”  The 1990’s were a period of rebuilding.  The jazz studies programs at Webster University and SIU-E were firmly entrenched.

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On the August 17 Jazz Unlimited show, we will find out that the jazz scene in St. Louis went through a dark time and the beginnings of a rebirth in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  College and high school jazz programs began and Charlie Menees brought a traditional jazz and swing program to KWMU.  The 1986 University City High School sent their jazz band to the Montreux Jazz Festival and all the member of the 1987 Todd Williams Quintet went on to solid professional careers.  A small group of experimentalists was still in St.

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