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Jazzed by the music


Los Angeles, CA — As a young child, Roscoe Lee Owens had absolutely no interest in learning about music. And it did not matter that his father–drummer and band leader Jimmy Owens-always had a house full of musicians playing and singing.

“He wanted to show me how to play the drums, and my uncle wanted to show me how to play piano, but I always wanted to play sports and have fun. I also have a sister and brother and no one plays,” explained Owens about the second generation.

Although his dad was a musician, Owens said he was also a salesman who was always marketing and selling something. “Evidently I caught that part,” said the entrepreneur, who has operated art galleries and sold insurance for 20 years. He also noted that his grandfather actually supplied the first trumpet Miles Davis used when he was a kid in East St. Louis.

It was not until his father created a CD featuring his trio, that Owens got bitten by the “music” bug. Consequently, when his father died in 1996, and another trio member (organist and composer Roger Hamilton Spotts) died almost a year later, Owens was deeply involved in promoting that last CD “Keeping It Alive” with the third and remaining member of the trio–saxophonist Bob Lacefield.

Those efforts segued into the creation of an organization called The JazzZone and of a new Jimmy Owens Jazz ensemble that featured musicians who had previously worked with his dad.
These individuals included Art Hillary and Curtis Kirk.

Owens’ involvement in JazzZone led to a connection with Dahle Scott McDuff, a singer who grew up in Chicago and sang with the jazz greats. Owens father played in her band back in Los Angeles in the 1950s.

“(Her) foundation (the Jammin Foundation) was dedicated to promoting historic music such as gospel, blues and jazz. In working with that and working with Dahle and her nonprofit, I found myself doing the same thing I did with my dad,” recalled Owens.

And when the vocalist died, Owens found himself taking up her mantle and continuing the work of the foundation, a non-profit membership organization that offers workshops, educational programs in the schools as well as produces events in parks that are open to the public.

The Jammin Foundation, which focuses a lot of its energies on collaborating with other organizations, will also launch a scholarship program at the end of 2009 that will give young musicians an opportunity for advanced music education.

The organization is also featuring members from the jazz ensembles at Audubon and John Muir middle schools as opening acts for JazzZone performances.

One of those is coming up May 1 and 2 during the Gala Tribute to Mingus planned for the Nate Holding Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles.

For more information on activities and becoming a  member, visit the JazzZone website: