Ephraim Owens

Austin trumpeter and member of the Tedeschi Trucks Band

Words by Jess Hagemann Photos by Eric Morales

Ephraim Owens is a jazz trumpeter in his mid-40s. He has been a professional musician since 1991, and variously plays with a trio, a quartet, a quintet, or a band depending on the showcase. After moving to Austin in 1994, Owens had a day named for him by then-mayor Bruce Todd, who proclaimed June 14, 1997, to be Ephraim Owens Day.

WHAT does playing music mean to you?  Music is medicine. People come out to shows to get things off their chest and out of their hearts and off their minds. They come out to get music in them because they had a bad day at work or something is going wrong with family or they’re sick. Some come out for the look or the feel of the music, or for the show of it. I believe it’s my duty to deliver, to live up to the audience’s honesty and to answer it with my own. If my music isn’t honest, somebody’s going to pick up on it.

WHERE are your favorite places to play in Austin?  I have a couple regular residencies at The Continental Gallery [on South Congress] and The Elephant Room [downtown]. I’ve been playing every Tuesday at the Gallery for the last ten years, and this year I’ll play a New Year’s Eve show at the Elephant Room.

As for east Austin, a fellow musician operates a pop-up venue called Monks at 6th and Chicon. They host special events for a cover charge, and it’s a great little room set up to feel like a real jazz club. Patrons there don’t get distracted by talking; they pay attention to what’s happening on stage.

WHY flugelhorn? What’s special about it to you?  I don’t play the flugelhorn a whole lot, but I like it for its warmth—it’s like a cozy fireplace. The mellowness of the flugelhorn is perfect for ballads and sentimental tunes. Certain songs ask for a certain sound. That’s how I determine which instrument to use: the flugelhorn, a modified muted horn, or an open horn. My trumpet goes everywhere that I do, but sometimes it’s nice to break up the monotony of only hearing one horn.

You’ve played with a lot of big-name recording artists. WHO have you enjoyed collaborating with most?  Sheryl Crow, Mumford and Sons, and Patty Griffin all come to mind immediately—but I’m going to stop there because I’d hate to leave somebody out.

You already have a day named after you. WHEN you have a cocktail named after you, what will be in it and what will it be called?  Tequila, neat. And I’d call it The Shorty. I order that at the clubs all the time. Tequila is my night caffeine. Unlike whiskey or bourbon, which slow you down, tequila gets my adrenaline going!

Did you know? You can catch Ephraim Owens one Friday a month at Whisler’s, where he plays a live cabaret. Serese Brown is the burlesque dancer. “She gets up on the bar and does her thing and I play off of her,” says Owens.

shows listed on Do512

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