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A renowned alto saxophonist, composer, producer, and educator, the rather accomplished Bobby Watson continues to be an influential figure in jazz. Born from Kansas City, Kansas, Watson attended the renowned jazz performance program at the University of Miami. Inclined to pursue his musical callings further, he then moved to New York City, a jazz capitol, in 1975 and began working as a musical director for Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers until 1981. Following this, Watson turned his focus to studio performing and touring, thus placing him in high demand with many other popular musical artists, such as Louis Hayes, Max Roach, Branford Marsalis, Sam Rivers, Joe Williams, Dianne Reeves, and Carlos Santana to name a few.
After traveling for some time, Bobby created a group called Horizon which featured bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Victor Lewis. Originally with Blue Note Records, they moved to the record powerhouse Columbia Records for a few of their recordings. Over the years, Watson remained a very popular performer to have on musicians teams, leading to him having 30 recordings as a band leader, more than 100 recordings as a session musician, and recorded more than 100 of his original compositions.
His success in and outside the studio led to several teaching opportunities for Watson. In the mid 1980s, he became an adjunct member of the faculty at William Patterson University where he taught saxophone. In the mid 1990s, he joined the team at the Manhattan School of Music. In 2000, Watson was invited to be the first William D. and Mary Grant/Missouri Distinguished Professorship of Jazz Studies as he was called back to his childhood region of the country near the Kansas/Missouri border. Currently, Bobby is involved with the Thelonious Monk's Institute's yearly "Jazz in America" high school outreach program.
Watson's success never stops in the studio and his recordings. He makes an enthusiastic effort to spend time passing on his talent and wisdom to the next generation of musicians serving as a teacher and mentor to many. Being called upon often for albums and recordings, Bobby strikes a difficult balance of performing and teaching due to his persistent sharing of the art of jazz.
A self-taught Latin percussionist since the age of 12 when his father handed him Cal Tjader’s 1960 “Latino” album featuring Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo back in 1966, and an LP fiberglass conga and told him, “Here, learn to play right with these”, he’s been living and breathing Latin Jazz since.
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