Ulysses Owens Jr., drums; Benny Benack III, trumpet; Adam Ronga, alto saxophone; Allyn Johnson, piano; Yasushi Nakamura, bass; Shenel Johns, vocals
A native of Jacksonville, Florida, and a graduate of The Juilliard School of Music’s jazz studies program, Ulysses Owens Jr. is much in demand as a drummer. He plays regularly with the Christian McBride Trio and the Kurt Elling Group, and he has toured and recorded with artists as diverse as Renée Fleming, Diane Schuur, Russell Malone, and Mulgrew Miller. He has released four albums and has already received two Grammy Awards for his work. For Summergarden, he premieres Stages of Us, a seven-movement suite that focuses on the African American experience. Mr. Owens writes, “The inspiration came from my desire to explore my history and all of the stages that it took for us to get to where we are today. . . . We have come such a long way, and so much as been accomplished; however, the recent tragedies prove that there is still a lot of change that needs to happen. I believe that music has the ability to unify us, connect us with our history, and help us all to understand each other a little better.”
The Museum of Modern Art established Summergarden in 1971. In keeping with MoMA’s history of presenting jazz and classical music in the Sculpture Garden, this year’s concert series once again welcomes the participation of The Juilliard School and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Titled New Music for New York, the series comprises four evenings of adventurous contemporary music, with premieres each night. Juilliard concerts are performed by members of the New Juilliard Ensemble, under the artistic direction of Joel Sachs, and the Verona Quartet, which has just concluded a two-year residency at Juilliard. Mr. Sachs has assembled two distinctive programs of recent compositions, which are enjoying their New York premieres. Jazz at Lincoln Center has selected two up-and-coming jazz ensembles whose concerts emphasize original works, each with one world premiere.
Summergarden is free and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. The Sculpture Garden may close if attendance reaches maximum capacity. Entrance to Summergarden is through the Sculpture Garden gate on West 54 Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues. The Sculpture Garden opens at 7:00 p.m., and concerts start at 8:00 p.m. and run approximately one hour to 90 minutes. The Sculpture Garden closes at 10:00 p.m. In the event of rain, concerts will be held in The Agnes Gund Garden Lobby, and the Museum’s 54 Street entrance will open at 7:30 p.m. The exhibition galleries are closed during Summergarden. The Garden Bar, located on the northeast end of the Sculpture Garden, features a selection of homemade snacks, as well as wine, craft beer, and cocktails. In the event of rain, the Garden Bar is closed.