Julius Watkins

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Julius Watkins (October 10, 1921 – April 4, 1977) was an American jazz musician, and one of the first jazz French horn players. He won the Down Beat critics poll in 1960 and 1961 for "miscellaneous instrument" with French horn named as the instrument.

Watkins was born in Detroit, Michigan. He started playing French horn when he was nine years old, having played the trumpet, the recognized jazz instrument, for the Ernie Fields Orchestra in the mid-1940s. By the late 1940s, however, he had played some French horn solos on Kenny Clarke and Babs Gonzales' records. After moving to New York City, Watkins studied for three years at the Manhattan School of Music. He started appearing in small-group jazz sessions, including two led by Thelonious Monk, featuring on "Friday the 13th" on the album Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins (1954).

Watkins recorded with numerous jazz greats, including John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and Gil Evans, Phil Woods, Clark Terry, Johnny Griffin, Randy Weston, and the Jazz Composer's Orchestra. He co-led, with Charlie Rouse, the group Les Jazz Modes from 1956 to 1959, and he toured with Quincy Jones and his band from 1959 to 1961.

He died in Short Hills, New Jersey at the age of 55. From 1994 to 1998, an annual "Julius Watkins Jazz Horn Festival" was held in New York, beginning at the Knitting Factory, (NY Times, January 27, 1994, "A One-Night French Horn Festival") honoring his legacy. [1] After an eleven-year break, another "Julius Watkins Festival" was held on October 3, 2009, in Seattle, Washington, at Cornish College of the Arts. On September 29, 2012, the most recent (7th) Julius Watkins Jazz Horn Festival was held at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.

Discography[edit]

As leader[edit]

  • Julius Watkins Sextet (Blue Note, 1955)
  • Julius Watkins Sextet Volume 2 (Blue Note, 1956)

Note: the above two records were consolidated into one upon compact disc re-release.

As sideman[edit]

With Manny Albam

With Art Blakey

With Donald Byrd

With Art Farmer

With Curtis Fuller and Hampton Hawes

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Benny Golson

With Johnny Griffin

With Jimmy Heath

With Milt Jackson

With Stan Kenton

With Curtis Fuller, Hampton Hawes, et al.

With Gil Mellé

With Charles Mingus

With Thelonious Monk

With Chico O'Farrill

With Billy Taylor

With Randy Weston

External links[edit]