During his long tenures with the jazz stars Christian McBride and Kurt Elling, Ulysses Owens Jr. aspired to build his own standing as a leader. The dazzling and seriously swinging drummer has taken another strong stride in that direction on his fourth album, Falling Forward, featuring his trio, Three. In addition to touring with that unit, Owens will continue to globe hop with the young pianist Joey Alexander. And this year he’ll also tour his vocal-centric project, Songs of Freedom, featuring the music of Abbey Lincoln, Joni Mitchell, and Nina Simone.

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