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Bobby Watson, Jr.

William D. and Mary Grant / Missouri Professor of Jazz Studies

A GRAMMY®-nominated saxophonist, composer, producer and educator, Bobby Watson trained formally at the University of Miami and then, 1977–1981, earned his “doctorate” as musical director of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and appeared on 14 of the group’s recordings, more than anyone else in the ensemble’s 35-year existence. In addition to Blakey, Watson worked with notable jazz icons Max Roach, Louis Hayes, George Coleman and Sam Rivers.  He has also worked with peers and colleagues alike including Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, and vocalists Joe Williams, Dianne Reeves, Lou Rawls, Betty Carter, and Carmen Lundy.

An association with bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Victor Lewis led Watson to launch the first edition of Horizon, the highly acclaimed acoustic quintet. He has also led the High Court of Swing (a tribute to the music of Johnny Hodges), The Tailor Made Big Band and is a founding member of the highly acclaimed 29th Street Saxophone Quartet. Watson also wrote original music for the sound track of Robert DeNiro’s directorial debut, A Bronx Tale. To date, the saxophonist has recorded 28 records as a leader and appears on about 100 recordings.

More than 100 Bobby Watson compositions have been recorded. Second Floor Music, his long-time publisher, makes available his original combo and big band arrangements to other performers and educators. After a string of recordings for the Palmetto label, Watson released a pair of self-produced titles. The Gates BBQ Suite (2011) celebrates his hometown’s most famous food with the music and track titles referencing the family business. At the time of its release Gates became the perfect vehicle for his University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) jazz students, who participate in UMKC’s Watson-directed program. Watson’s most recent release, Check Cashing Day (2013), honors the Civil Rights Movement in general and specifically the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famed “I Have A Dream” speech.

In 2000, after three decades in New York where he stood among the world’s most elite jazz musicians, Watson, at UMKC’s invitation, returned to Kansas City where he was awarded the first William D. and Mary Grant/Missouri Professor of Jazz Studies as an endowed chair.  With the appointment, Watson became UMKC’s Director of Jazz Studies, a position he continues to hold today.

Watson has received a number of well-deserved awards recognizing his musical contributions during what is more than a four-decade career. In 2011 the saxophonist was inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of fame. In 2013 he received the prestigious Benny Golson Jazz Masters Award from Howard University, Washington, D.C. Simultaneously, Rep. John Conyers honored Watson by officially recognizing his work in the Congressional Record. On August 23, 2014, coincidentally Watson’s 61st birthday, he was selected as one of the first inductees into the then-newly established 18th and Vine “Jazz Walk of Fame.” He joined Pat Metheny as the only other living selection along with four of the city’s jazz icons: Count Basie, Jay McShann, Charlie Parker and Mary Lou Williams.

More here at Bobby Watson's web site.