The Cutting Edge Jazz Group
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The Cutting Edge Jazz Group

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"CD Review: Mike Owen and Paul Peacock - Give and Take"

Is it Jazz? Is it Classical? Is it something all together different? Does it matter?

These are questions that ran through my mind when I first listened to Give and Take, (2009 BirdBoy Music/Owensongs Music) but only for moments. The music is so uniquely engaging that I soon found myself entranced in the exploration of the conversations that Houston saxophonist Paul Peacock and pianist Mike Owen have accomplished on this gem of original compositions.

The concept for Give and Take evolved from a piece written by Mike Owen titled “Alone With You” for the Higher Learning CD produced by Paul and Mike. That duo track spoke of communication, space, and simplicity: the Give and Take that makes for honest, productive conversation. Paul and Mike have continued upon that path and have composed a new set of pieces that are the paradigm for dialogues drawing from spiritual and artistic influences that include Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Ravel, Debussy, and Bartok. The duo format chosen provides an oasis of space for Paul and Mike’s music to live and breath.

Paul’s aptly titled “Morning Song” begins the musical journey as Mike introduces the tune’s beautifully simple three note phrase on piano with a subtleness that speaks of an awakening. Paul’s soprano sax enters the conversation by musically acknowledging Mike’s statements and both musicians explore the melodic and harmonic possibilities that “Morning Song” offers. Space is given to Paul and he becomes the primary soloist/speaker. Mike then solos citing his musical observations as if to say “this is another way to see it.” The theme and the conversation will mean different things to different people depending on one’s experiences. To me it speaks of magical moments like waking up in a mountain sunrise looking out over a lake and just listening.

The title track “Give and Take” is written with resolve and thoughtfulness and opens up opportunities for an entirely new dialog. Mike Owen presents his profound theme in a two part statement which Paul affirms. The unison restatement of theme by the duo is beautifully done and further defines the composition which flows into a commentary interlude. The musical discussion Mike and Paul engage in confirms the trust and respect these two Houston musicians have for one another as they trade and expand ideas to the point of a unified musical consciousness.

Mike Owen’s Bolero inspired melody for “Love March” perfectly compliments a concept that Paul came up with that utilizes a double harmonic scale which moves in half steps. The combination makes for a wonderfully hypnotic and meditative piece which really showcases Paul’s mastery of the soprano sax with seemingly effortless passages that soar and dip with birdlike freedom and superb tone. Mike’s accompaniment and seamless harmonic interspersion throughout this piece hold it all together with invisible eloquence.

The splendor of sound in Mike’s Debussy and Ravel influenced “Waiting” evokes impressionistic imagery with a flow and ease by the duo that is reminiscent of some of the collaborations of Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach.

Paul’s introspective piece titled “Hymn” explores the beautiful simplicity that can be achieved by combining a minimalist two note theme with a harmonic structure which makes use of the one (major chord) and four (as a minor chord, major 7th).

Take a deep breath and look up. “At the Edge of the Universe” written by Mike has a wonderful epic feel to it. You first enter through a mysterious open door of sound provided by Paul and Mike. The piece then builds to a state that conjures up a sense of urgency followed by a beautifully constructed five note release with a great chord selection for support. An unexpected combination that is truly unique. The piece has a very noir feel in places which adds another dimension of appeal to it and Mike’s stylistic shadings of Bartok and Ravel make this an extremely satisfying track.

“Alone With You”, the seed of inspiration for Give and Take was originally written by Mike to be a funk jazz waltz. The original concept has metamorphosed into a heartfelt piece that speaks with moving patience and tenderness. There are qualities of this piece that remind me of some of Chick Corea’s original solo compositions from the ‘70s.

Paul’s “Dora’s Dance” is a gorgeously written ballad that just makes you feel good inside. It has a sentimental flavor to it that is so fresh and I’m sure every one who hears this track will be transported to places of fond memories. The sensitivity that is given in their performance illustrates the reverence that Paul and Mike both share for this song.

“The Mystics” is presented twice on the disc as a final and alternate take and might be described as liquid sound. This composition by Paul is a testament to his understanding and respect for the music of John Coltrane: particularly “Ascension.” Using a four not - Greg Scott -

"CD Review: Paul PEacock and Mike Owen - Higher Learning"

I have spent the last hour thoroughly enjoying this cd. The writing and playing are wonderful and the entire mood of the recording is just terrific. There are superb musicians doing excellent work in this city and if we don't use this forum to dig deeper into what is going on creatively in our own village, then shame on us. - Joe LoCascio -


Paul Peacock and Mike Owen: Higher Learning (BirdBoy/Owensong 2009)
Mike Owen and Paul Peacock: Give and Take (BirdBoy/Owensong 2009)
Mike Owen: A Jazz Affair (BirdBoy/Owensong 2009)
Cody Moffett: Evidence (TelArc 1993)
Cody Moffett: My Favorite Things (AGB Series 2000)



We consist of some of the best and most original jazz musicians from the Houston and New York jazz scenes. Paul is one of the exciting new faces on the jazz scene in Texas with a sound influenced by Coltrane, Breacker, Wayne Shorter, David Liebman, and Joe Henderson, to name a few. Mike Owen is a veteran in Houston, moving effortlessly from piano to guitar. He is also known for his compositional skills. Thomas Helton is the champion of the Avant Garde in Houston, working with some of the best in jazz including trumpet great Tim Hagans. Cody Moffett, son of jazz drum legend Charles Moffett, is a transplant from New York and has worked with the most legendary names in jazz including Sonny Rollins, Kenny Drew Jr., Stanley Jordan, and many more.