Mwata Bowden is Director of Jazz Ensembles at the University of Chicago. A native of Memphis, he attended Chicago's DuSable High School where he studied music with the legendary Captain Walter Dyett, whose tutelage inspired such young talents as Nat King Cole, Johnny Griffin, Gene Ammons, Von Freeman, Fred Hopkins, and Richard Davis. Bowden studied classical music at Chicago's American Conservatory of Music, and later toured with the rhythm and blues group, the Chi-Lites. In 1974, he became active in Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), playing with the AACM Big Band with Muhal Richard Abrams and others. He plays the family of clarinets, tenor and baritone saxophones, as well as the flute and the didjeridu. He has performed at jazz and blues festivals throughout Chicago and around the world, including the 2004 Banlieues Bleues Jazz Festival, 2003 Chicago Jazz Festival, the 2001 North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland, and in Italy the same year with Edward Wilkerson's Eight Bold Souls. He also performs in Wilkerson's Shadow Vignettes ensemble. Bowden leads the jazz groups Sound Spectrum and Tri-tone, and his Black Classical Music Ensemble.
Bowden has received the Outstanding Artist Service Award for dedication to children through music, recognition in Downbeats magazine's annual Critic's Poll from 1990 to 2003, and the 1994 Arts Midwest Jazz Masters Award. His activities in local Jazz and music education include serving on the Board of Directors of the Jazz Institute of Chicago and conducting music residencies for the Chicago Council on Fine Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, Ravinia Music Illumination Program, and Urban Gateways. He served as Chairman of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, (AACM) one of the oldest Black musicians' collectives in the United States. His Sound Spectrum strives to reflect the energy and musical heritage of Chicago as well as the ongoing legacy of great Black music.
The many recordings he appears on include Birth of a Notion, with Edward Wilkerson's Shadow Vignettes, Sideshow, 8 Bold Souls, and Last Option with 8 Bold Souls, Clarinet Choir with Douglas Ewart/Inventions, and Power Trio, Rooted: Origins of Now with the Miyumi Project Big Band; and The Miyumi Project with Tatsu Aoki.