On Jazz Beyond Tradition, Ulysses Owens Jr. & Keanna Faircloth Explore the Past, Present and Future of the True American Artform

Grammy-winning drummer and educator Ulysses Owens Jr. (left) and award-winning radio personality and music journalist Keanna Faircloth (right) are your hosts for Jazz Beyond Tradition, premiering Sunday, April 21 | Photos by Erik Bardin

In celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month, WJCT Public Media and the Jacksonville Music Experience will debut Jazz Beyond Tradition, a six-episode limited series that explores jazz voices from the past, present and future, beginning Sunday, April 21 on both WJCT News 89.9 and the Independent 89.9 HD4. 

Hosted by Jacksonville-bred, Grammy-Award-winning musician and educator Ulysses Owens Jr. and award-winning radio and podcast personality Keanna Faircloth (NPR Music, WBGO, Artimacy Podcast), each episode of Jazz Beyond Tradition will honor jazz elders and standard-bearers, while creating space for the voices of tomorrow in jazz and beyond with playlists that connect the past to the present in joyous and surprising ways. 

The series kicks off on Sunday, April 21 at 10 a.m. on The Independent 89.9 HD4 and 7 p.m. on WJCT News 89.9 with an episode exploring the magic of jazz vocals, featuring interviews with rising stars Christie Dashiell and Ekep Nkwelle and a playlist that weaves together the stories of pioneering artists and the influence of jazz on contemporary music, while foreshadowing the future of jazz vocals.

“Ulysses is a powerhouse musician who exemplifies what it means to take Jazz beyond tradition,” says Faircloth of her co-host, whose new album, A New Beat, with his band of jazz upstarts, Generation Y, has, as of press time, enjoyed the top spot on the Jazz Week charts for eight consecutive weeks. “Ulysses’ music and mission has been to carry on the jazz tradition while looking ahead to the future, literally taking the next generation of musicians along for the ride. He’s also a well-respected native of Jacksonville who serves the community through his talent. I also appreciate how he’s able to talk shop with the musicians that we interview! He truly adds something very special to the JBT formula.” 

“Keanna is the Queen of Jazz Radio, in my humble opinion, because she loves, and lives for, the music and the culture wholeheartedly,” says Owens Jr. “She has been on the air successfully for over two decades and understands what the listeners need from the music. She is an ambassador for the present and future of jazz radio, anchored in the tradition – having  been mentored by Rob Crocker, and Maxx Myrick. We are super fortunate to have someone with her national reach working with us at WJCT.” 

“Jazz Beyond Tradition is more than a show, it’s a movement that seeks to bring the tradition of this music to our audience while also giving them a glimpse into the sonic future.”

Ulysses Owens Jr., co-host of Jazz Beyond Tradition

Featuring engaging interviews with local, national and international artists and tastemakers (including harpist Brandee Younger, saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, journalist Marcus J. Moore and singer Christie Dashiell, among others), Jazz Beyond Tradition bridges the gap between where jazz has been and where it’s headed. From the torchbearers of the jazz-vocal tradition to the state of the mighty tenor saxophone to the enduring influence of unimpeachably cool jazz-focussed record labels to the prevalence of jazz in Jacksonville, Jazz Beyond Tradition illuminates the artform and provides a unique lens through which to view, listen and understand the music.   

“Jazz Beyond Tradition is more than a show, it’s a movement that seeks to bring the tradition of this music to our audience while also giving them a glimpse into the sonic future,” says Owens Jr. “It’s been a pure joy creating this show with Keanna and it’s made me fall in love with jazz all over again!”

Jazz Beyond Tradition kicks off on Sunday April 21 and airs every Sunday night at 7 p.m. on WJCT News 89.9 through May 26. Each episode will also air on The Independent 89.9 HD4’s Jazz Brunch (10am-noon). Follow JBT on Ulysses Owens Jr. and Keanna Faircloth on Instagram and on the JBT website here.

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