Julius Watkins

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Julius Watkins
Born(1921-10-10)October 10, 1921
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
DiedApril 4, 1977(1977-04-04) (aged 55)
Short Hills, New Jersey, U.S.
Instrument(s)French horn
Years active1940s–1970s
LabelsBlue Note

Julius Watkins (October 10, 1921 – April 4, 1977)[1] was an American jazz musician who played French horn.[2] Described by AllMusic as "virtually the father of the jazz French horn",[3] Watkins won the Down Beat critics poll in 1960 and 1961 for Miscellaneous Instrument.

Life and career[edit]

Watkins was born in Detroit, Michigan, United States.[1] He began playing the French horn when he was nine years old.[1] Watkins began his career in jazz playing the trumpet in the Ernie Fields Orchestra from 1943 to 1946.[1] By the late 1940s, he had played some French horn solos on recording sessions led by Kenny Clarke and Babs Gonzales. After moving to New York City, Watkins studied for three years at the Manhattan School of Music.[1] 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 many other 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.[1] He co-led, with Charlie Rouse, the group Les Jazz Modes from 1956 to 1959,[1] and he toured with Quincy Jones and his band from 1959 to 1961.

In 1969, Watkins played French horn for the beat poet Allen Ginsberg's album Songs of Innocence and Experience (1970), a musical adaptation of William Blake's poetry collection of the same name.[4]

Suffering from diabetes, liver and kidney problems, and chronic alcoholism, Watkins died from a heart attack in Short Hills, New Jersey, at the age of 55.[2]

From 1994 to 1998, an annual Julius Watkins Jazz Horn Festival was held in New York, beginning at the Knitting Factory,[5]) honoring his legacy.[6] 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 seventh 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 Allen Ginsberg

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. ^ a b c d e f g Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 2636. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ a b Smith, P. G. "Julius Watkins and the Evolution of the Jazz French Horn Genre" Archived 2010-07-27 at the Wayback Machine (dissertation), University of Florida, 2005, p. 56-57. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  3. ^ Scott Yanow. "Julius Watkins". Allmusic. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Jurek, Thom (2017). "Allen Ginsberg - The Complete Songs of Innocence and Experience". AllMusic. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  5. ^ "A One-Night French Horn Festival", The New York Times, January 27, 1994
  6. ^ "Jazz Horn Resources". Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2006-09-30.

External links[edit]