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Songs of Freedom

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Songs of Freedom
Ulysses Owens Jr., Music Director, featuring René Marie, Alicia Olatuja and Theo Bleckmann

Ulysses Owens Jr., Music Director and Drummer
René Marie, vocals
Alicia Olatuja, vocals
Theo Bleckmann, vocals
Mike King, piano & keyboard
David Rosenthal, guitar
Richie Goods, bass

Presented in partnership with the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies, and KUTX’s Sunday Morning Jazz with Jay Trachtenberg

This performance is made possible by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

View event program.

Under the direction of Grammy Award-winning drummer, Ulysses Owens Jr., the 1960s are explored through the work of three prolific artists: Joni Mitchell, Abbey Lincoln, and Nina Simone—all of whom shaped the music and culture of the 1960s through their artistry. Each artist expressed freedom in various ways. Joni composed and sang about the freedom of love, Abbey expressed freedom of her individuality and race through her lyricism, and Nina demanded political freedom through song.

Ulysses Owens Jr. leads a jazz ensemble and a trio of extraordinary featured vocalists including classically-trained jazz artist Alicia Olatuja, Grammy Award-nominated Theo Bleckmann, and vocalist/composer/theatrical performer René Marie, in a celebration of the impact and vast repertoire of three musical changemakers.

A centerpiece of the program is “Everything Must Change,” associated with Ms. Simone. Alicia Olatuja brings an earnest intensity to the song… “No one and nothing stays unchanged,” she sings, and as she slowly builds a crescendo, she hints at both a formidable obstacle and the will to overcome.

The New York Times

Alicia Olatuja "Everything Must Change" (Nina Simone) from myleswein on YouTube.

Fun Facts:

  • Singer and composer Theo Bleckmann has composed for a range of instruments including piano, violin, kalimba, chimes, glockenspiel, toy microphone, and even sewing machines.
  • In 2015, drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. was recommended by Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center to compose a work for the Museum of Modern Art’s Summergarden series, and premiered a seven-movement suite entitled Stages of Us.
  • Singer Alicia Olatuja first came into the national spotlight in 2013, whilst performing as the featured soloist with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir at President Barack Obama’s Second Inauguration.
  • Singer Rene Marie’s started SLAM! a vocal therapy workshop where she offers one-on-one sessions to help people discover and reconnect with their singing voice.
  • Drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. is a graduate of the inaugural Jazz Studies Program at The Juilliard School.