Charles met Houston Ross, midway through 2000's first decade, on the bandstand of a Charlottesville funk/fusion guitarist, Matthew Willner. Houston was immediately impressed, telling Mike that he hadn't heard a local horn player on that level since Leroi Moore. The internationally acclaimed Owens, born in 1972 and not to be confused with his older, more famous, tenor saxophone namesake, attended such arts institutions as Virginia's Duke Ellington School for the Arts, Miami's New World School of the Arts, and New York's New School Jazz Program. After a period of intense study, apprenticeships, and self-reflection, Charles struck out on his own by leading his own groups. Charles played a weekly Friday night gig at New York City jazz clubt, Smalls and appeared regularly at many legendary NYC nightspots, including Sweet Basil, Chicago Blues, The Blue Note, The Zinc Bar, and Birdland.
Owens also found himself touring the world, a cross-cultural educational experience he values as much as any other aspect of his musical education. By the late 1990s, he was ready to record and supplied a couple of tracks to the 1998 Impulse Records compilation, Jazz Underground: Live at Smalls. In 1999, the Charles Owens Quartet released its first recording, Eternal Balance. The quartet on this date was Owens, pianist Jason Lindner, bassist Omer Avital, and drummer Daniel Freedman. Other appearances include Jason Lindner's Premonition and an unreleased album by the Omer Avital Sextet. Charles also arranged and performed the music for the independent film, Fly Trap.
Despite praise from Entertainment Weekly, the Village Voice, the New York Times, and the L.A. Times., Charles has eschewed a career as a New York jazz musician and is now happily raising a family in Charlottesville, performing weekly with the Houston Ross Trio. When Houston wrote the melody for "Nightfall." Charles' buttery tone seemed the perfect voice to render it on record, so he supplied Charles with a demo -- the tenor sax part sung in Houston's sweet and melodic tenor. Charles learned it note-for-note and resonant and warm results close the diverse and energetic Sokoband.