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With four Grammy nominations, USF jazz professor Chuck Owen hopes for gold

Posted January 27, 2018 12:06 p.m. EST

Earning four Grammy nominations is impressive. Even more so: the enormous crew Chuck Owen is bringing to New York for the ceremony.

Rolling into Sunday's Grammy Awards alongside Owen, the Distinguished University Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of South Florida, will be at least a dozen bandmates, collaborators and their guests, as well as seven members of his family. His daughter is even flying in from a teaching job in China.

"I tried to convince her that it wasn't possibly worth a plane fare from China, but she was just like, 'I have a feeling about this one, Dad,'?" Owen said.

She might be right. Owen's latest album with his band the Jazz Surge, Whispers on the Wind, is nominated for four Grammy Awards. One is for violinist Sara Caswell in the category of Best Improvised Jazz Solo, but the rest are all Owen's -- Best Instrumental Composition (Warped Cowboy); Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella (All Hat, No Saddle); and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.

Three nominations in one year is impressive for any artist -- others who managed the feat this year include Justin Bieber, Pharrell Williams and Chris Stapleton -- but especially for a 64-year-old jazz professor from Temple Terrace.

"The texts and Facebook posts have just been unbelievable," he said of the reaction from friends and collaborators. "The first week after the nominations was just an absolute blur of congratulations and folks calling. It's all great stuff."

Owen is no stranger to the Grammys -- he was twice nominated in 2014, and another project he was involved with received a nomination in 2009. His categories will be honored Sunday afternoon, before the CBS telecast, in a live-streamed event from Radio City Music Hall hosted by Paul Shaffer and featuring appearances by Zac Brown, Ice-T, India.Arie and Jimmy Jam.

But the ceremony is only part of Owen's Grammy weekend. In addition to various luncheons, during which he'll meet and hobnob with numerous musicians from around the world -- he's the founding president of the International Society of Jazz Arrangers and Composers -- if time allows, he'll catch a show with his family.

And then, win or lose, it's back to work at USF on Monday.

Maybe.

"My flight gets me in so I could make it in the Monday following, if everything's on time," he said with a laugh. "We'll see how I'm doing. That might be the time to use a graduate teaching assistant."

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.