Julius Watkins

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Julius Watkins
Born(1921-10-10)October 10, 1921
Detroit, Michigan
DiedApril 4, 1977(1977-04-04) (aged 55)
Short Hills, New Jersey
Occupation(s)Jazz musician
InstrumentsFrench horn

Julius Watkins (October 10, 1921 – April 4, 1977) was an American jazz musician, and one of the first French horn players in jazz.[1] He won the Down Beat critics poll in 1960 and 1961 for "miscellaneous instrument" with French horn named as the instrument.

Life and career[edit]

Watkins was born in Detroit, Michigan. He began playing the French horn when he was nine years old. Watkins started his jazz career playing the trumpet in the Ernie Fields Orchestra from 1943 to 1946. By the late 1940s, 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 musicians, including John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and Gil Evans, Phil Woods, Clark Terry, Johnny Griffin, Randy Weston, and with 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.[2] 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.


As leader/co-leader[edit]

With Charlie Rouse as Les Jazz Modes/The Jazz Modes

With Jazz Contemporaries (George Coleman, Clifford Jordan, Harold Mabern, Larry Ridley, Keno Duke)

As sideman[edit]

With Manny Albam

With Benny Bailey

With Art Blakey

With Kenny Burrell

With Billy Byers

  • Impressions of Duke Ellington (Mercury, 1961)

With Donald Byrd

With John Coltrane

With Tadd Dameron

With Miles Davis

With Billy Eckstein

With Gil Evans

With Art Farmer

With Curtis Fuller and Hampton Hawes

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Benny Golson

With Johnny Griffin

With Gigi Gryce

With Jimmy Heath

With Freddie Hubbard

With Milt Jackson

With The Jazz Composer's Orchestra

With Quincy Jones

With Thad Jones and Mel Lewis

With Beverly Kenney

  • Come Swing with Me (Roost, 1956)

With Stan Kenton

With Roland Kirk

With Michel Legrand

  • Michel Legrand Big Band Plays Richard Rogers (Phillips, 1963)

With the Manhattan Jazz All-Stars

  • Swinging Guys and Dolls (Columbia, 1959)

With Herbie Mann

With Cal Massey

With Mat Mathews

  • The Modern Art of Jazz by Mat Mathews (Dawn, 1956)
  • 4 French Horns plus Rhythm (Elektra, 1958)

With Charles McPherson

With Gil Mellé

With Charles Mingus

With Blue Mitchell

With Thelonious Monk

With David Newman

With Oliver Nelson

With Chico O'Farrill

With Oscar Peterson

With Oscar Pettiford

With Johnny Richards

  • Experiments in Sound (Capitol, 1958)
  • The Rites of Diablo (Roulette, 1958)
  • Walk Softly/Run Wild! (Coral, 1959)

With the Riverside Jazz Stars

  • A Jazz Version of Kean (Riverside, 1962)

With Pete Rugolo

With Pharoah Sanders

With George Shearing

  • Satin Brass (Capitol, 1959)

With Warren Smith

  • Composer's Workshop Ensemble (Strata-East, 1972)

With Les Spann

With Billy Taylor

With Clark Terry

With McCoy Tyner

With Randy Weston

With Art Webb

  • Mr. Flute (Atlantic, 1977)

With Mary Lou Williams

  • Mary Lou's Mass (Mary, 1972 [1975])

With Phil Woods


  1. ^ Smith, P. G. Julius Watkins and the Evolution of the Jazz French Horn Genre accessed October 6, 2016
  2. ^ "Jazz Horn Resources". world.std.com. Retrieved Oct 4, 2019.

External links[edit]