Bobby Watson

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Bobby Watson
Watson performing in 2008
Watson performing in 2008
Background information
Birth nameRobert Michael Watson Jr.
Born (1953-08-23) August 23, 1953 (age 69)
Lawrence, Kansas, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, educator
Years active1970s–present
LabelsRoulette, Red, Blue Note, Columbia, Palmetto

Robert Michael Watson Jr. (born August 23, 1953),[1] known professionally as Bobby Watson, is an American saxophonist, composer, and educator.

Music career[edit]

Watson was born in Lawrence, Kansas, United States,[2] and grew up in Kansas City, Kansas. He attended the University of Miami,[2] at the same time as Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, and Bruce Hornsby. He graduated in 1975, moved to New York City, and became music director for the Jazz Messengers from 1977 to 1981.[2] After leaving the band, he was productive as a session musician, recording with Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Max Roach, Joe Williams, Dianne Reeves, Lou Rawls, Betty Carter, and Carmen Lundy. He formed the band Bobby Watson & Horizon with bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Victor Lewis,[2] with whom he played throughout the 1980s and 1990s.[3] In 1991, they released the album Post Motown Bop on Blue Note Records, with John Fordham in Q Magazine describing it as "gleaming, glossy bebop".[4]

Watson also led a group known as the High Court of Swing (a tribute to the music of Johnny Hodges), the sixteen-piece Tailor-Made Big Band, and is a founding member of the 29th Street Saxophone Quartet, an all-horn, four-piece group with alto saxophonist Ed Jackson, tenor saxophonist Rich Rothenberg, and baritone saxophonist Jim Hartog. Watson also composed a song for the soundtrack to the movie A Bronx Tale (1993).

A resident of New York for most of his professional life, he served as a member of the adjunct faculty and taught saxophone privately at William Paterson University from 1985 to 1986 and the Manhattan School of Music from 1996 to 1999.[3] He is involved with the Thelonious Monk Institute's annual Jazz in America high school outreach program.

In 2000, he was approached to return to his native midwestern surroundings on the Kansas-Missouri border. Watson was selected as the first William D. and Mary Grant/Missouri, Distinguished Professorship in Jazz Studies.[5] As the director of jazz studies at the University of Missouri–Kansas City Conservatory of Music, while still managing a worldwide performing schedule, Watson's ensembles at UMKC have received several awards.[6] Watson spent the 2019-2020 academic year as a Global Jazz Ambassador for UMKC.


As leader[edit]

  • Estimated Time of Arrival (Roulette, 1978)
  • All Because of You (Roulette, 1979)
  • Advance (Enja, 1985)
  • Beatitudes (New Note, 1985)
  • Appointment in Milano (Red,1985)
  • Love Remains (Red, 1986)
  • The Year of the Rabbit (New Note, 1987)
  • The Inventor (Blue Note, 1989)
  • Post-Motown Bop (Blue Note, 1991)
  • Present Tense (Columbia, 1992)
  • Tailor Made (Columbia, 1993)
  • Gumbo (Evidence, 1994)
  • Midwest Shuffle (Columbia, 1994)
  • Urban Renewal (Kokopelli, 1995)
  • Live & Learn (Palmetto, 2001)
  • Old Friends New Point (City Light, 2002)
  • From the Heart (Palmetto, 2007)
  • Made in America (Smoke Sessions, 2017)
  • Bird at 100 (Smoke Sessions, 2019)
  • Keepin' It Real (Smoke Sessions, 2020)

As sideman[edit]

With the 29th Street Saxophone Quartet

  • Pointillistic Groove (Osmosis, 1984)
  • The Real Deal (New Note, 1987)
  • Underground (Antilles, 1991)

With Art Blakey

With others


  1. ^ "Bobby Watson". International Council of Fine Arts Deans. Retrieved September 8, 2018. On August 23, 2014, coincidentally his 61st birthday
  2. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 2637. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  3. ^ a b Skelly, Richard. "Bobby Watson". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  4. ^ Fordham, John (5 March 1991). "Post Motown Bop review". Q Magazine. 55: 80.
  5. ^ "People: Faculty Directory: Bobby Watson, Jr". UMKC. Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2010-09-07.
  6. ^ Burnett, Chris (2003-10-02). "Bobby Watson's Kansas City Big Band: Part 1-2". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2010-09-07.
  7. ^ "Superblue". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 November 2016.

External links[edit]