Bill Watrous

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Bill Watrous
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Russell Watrous III
Born(1939-06-08)June 8, 1939
Middletown, Connecticut, U.S.
DiedJuly 2, 2018(2018-07-02) (aged 79)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.

William Russell Watrous III (June 8, 1939 – July 2, 2018)[1] was an American jazz trombonist. He is perhaps best known for his rendition of Sammy Nestico's arrangement of the Johnny Mandel ballad "A Time for Love", which he recorded on a 1993 album of the same name. A self-described "bop-oriented" player, he was well known among trombonists as a master technician and for his mellifluous sound.


Bill Watrous at Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, Half Moon Bay CA 7/23/89

He was born in Middletown, Connecticut, United States.[2] Watrous' father, also a trombonist, introduced him to the instrument at an early age.[2] While serving in the U.S. Navy, Watrous studied with jazz pianist and composer Herbie Nichols.[2] His first professional performances were in Billy Butterfield's band.[3]

Watrous' career blossomed in the 1960s. He played and recorded with many prominent jazz musicians, including Count Basie, Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, Quincy Jones, Johnny Richards, and trombonist Kai Winding.[2][4] He also played with well-known vocalists Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughn.[4] He played in the house band on the Merv Griffin Show from 1965 to 1968.[1] From 1967 to 1969, he worked as a staff musician for CBS. [4]

In 1971, he played with the jazz fusion group Ten Wheel Drive. Also in the 1970s, Watrous formed his own band, The Manhattan Wildlife Refuge Big Band, which recorded two albums for Columbia Records.[2] The band was later renamed Refuge West when Watrous moved to southern California.

He continued to work as a bandleader, studio musician, and performer at jazz clubs.[2] In 1983, Watrous collaborated with Alan Raph to publish Trombonisms, an instructional manual covering performance techniques for trombone. He has recorded as a solo artist, bandleader, and in small ensembles. These recordings include a Japanese import album in 2001 containing material recorded in 1984 with Carl Fontana, whom Watrous has cited as his favorite trombonist. He traveled periodically to San Diego to play with his good friend and former student, Dave Scott, a noted jazz musician himself and TV broadcast host. The SHSU Bill Watrous Jazz Festival which is held annually at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas is named in his honor and claims to be the oldest jazz festival in Texas.[5]

Watrous taught for two decades at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, before retiring in 2015.[1] He died in Los Angeles on July 2, 2018.[1] He was survived by his wife, Maryann; their son, Jason; and two daughters from a previous marriage – Melody Watrous Ide and Cheryl Schoolcraft.[1]

Other Talents[edit]

Bill Watrous played baseball. He was scouted by the New York Yankees when in his teens. Later on, Watrous considered joining a minor league baseball team in the early 80's.[1]

Awards and nominations[edit]

1975, Grammy Nomination for The Tiger of San Pedro[6]

2019 The Legacy Circle Award of The International Trombone Association

2 Down Beat Awards and nominated top trombonist by Down beat for 7 years in a row. [4]


As leader[edit]

  • In Love Again (as William Russell Watrous with the Richard Behrke Strings) (MTA, 1964)
  • Plays Love Themes for the Underground, the Establishment & Other Sub Cultures Not Yet Known (With the Walter Raim Concept) (MTA, 1969)
  • Bone Straight Ahead (Famous Door, 1973)
  • Manhattan Wildlife Refuge (Columbia, 1974)
  • The Tiger of San Pedro (Columbia, 1975)
  • Funk 'n' Fun (Yupiteru, 1979)
  • Watrous in Hollywood (Famous Door, 1979)
  • Coronary Trombossa! (Famous Door, 1980)
  • I'll Play for You (Famous Door, 1980)
  • La Zorra (Famous Door, 1980)
  • Bill Watrous in London (Mole Jazz, 1982)
  • Roaring Back to New York, New York (Famous Door, 1983)
  • Bill Watrous and Carl Fontana (Atlas, 1984)
  • Someplace Else (Soundwings, 1986)
  • Reflections (Soundwings, 1987)
  • Bone-Ified (GNP Crescendo, 1992)
  • Time for Love (GNP Crescendo, 1993)
  • Space Available (Double-Time, 1997)
  • Live at the Blue Note (Half Note, 2000)
  • Living in the Moment with The Gary Urwin Jazz Orchestra (Sea Breeze, 2003)
  • Live in Living Comfort (Stonequake, 2003)
  • Mad to the Bone with The Rob Stoneback Big Band (Stonequake, 2003)
  • Kindred Spirits with The Gary Urwin Jazz Orchestra (Summit, 2006)

As sideman[edit]

With Deodato

With Kenny Burrell

With Paul Desmond

With Maynard Ferguson

With Quincy Jones

With O'Donel Levy

With Milton Nascimento

With Jimmy Witherspoon

With Johnny Richards

  • Aqui Se Habla Español (Roulette, 1967)

With Red Rodney

With Arturo Sandoval

  • Dream Come True (1993)

With Kai Winding

With Pennsbury Concert Jazz Band

  • Then & Now (2013)

'With Ingrid James and San Gabriel 7 (JGS-SG7, 2012)


  1. ^ a b c d e f Russonello, Giovanni (July 11, 2018). "Bill Watrous, Trombonist and Bandleader, Is Dead at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 418. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  3. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Bill Watrous Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d Vande Kappelle, Robert P. (2011). Blue Notes Profiles of Jazz Personalities. Wipf and Stock Publishers. pp. 185–186. ISBN 9781498271240.
  5. ^ Sam Houston State University. "SHSU Bill Watrous Jazz Festival". SHSU Bill Watrous Jazz Festival. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  6. ^ "Bill Watrous". 2020-11-23. Retrieved 2021-11-28.

External links[edit]