Bobby Watson

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

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

Music career

Watson was born in Lawrence, Kansas and grew up in Kansas City, Kansas. He attended the University of Miami 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. 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, with whom he played throughout the 1980s and '90s.[2]

Watson 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4]


As leader

  • 1978: Estimated Time of Arrival (Roulette)
  • 1979: All Because of You (Roulette)
  • 1983: Live in Europe - Perpetual Groove (Red)
  • 1984: Advance (Enja)
  • 1985: Round Trip (Red)
  • 1986: Love Remains (Red) with John Hicks, Curtis Lundy, Marvin "Smitty" Smith
  • 1987: Beatitudes (New Notes) with Curtis Lundy as co-leader
  • 1987: The Year of the Rabbit (Evidence) with Art Baron, Mulgrew Miller
  • 1990: Post-Motown Bop with Horizon (Blue Note)[5]
  • 1991: Present Tense (Columbia)
  • 1993: This Little Light of Mine (Red)
  • 1993: Midwest Shuffle (Columbia) with Victor Lewis
  • 1995: Urban Renewal (Kokopelli)
  • 1998: Quiet as It's Kept (Red)
  • 1998: The Bobby Watson/Curtis Lundy Project
  • 2000: In the Groove (Challenge)
  • 2002: Live & Learn (Palmetto)
  • 2004: Horizon Reassembled (Palmetto)
  • 2006: Soulful Serendipity (We Always Swing) with James Williams as co-leader
  • 2008: From the Heart (Palmetto)
  • 2009: Everlasting (Red)
  • 2010: The Gates BBQ Suite (CD Baby) with the UMKC Concert Jazz Orchestra
  • 2013: Check Cashing Day (CD Baby) with the I Have a Dream Project

As sideman

With the 29th Street Saxophone Quartet

  • Pointillistic Groove (Osmosis, 1984)
  • The Real Deal (New Note, 1987)
  • Underground (Antilles, 1991)
  • Milano New York Bridge (Red, 1993)

With Kamal Abdul-Alim

With Art Blakey

With Ricky Ford

With Louis Hayes

With John Hicks

With Horizon

  • No Question About It (Blue Note, 1988)
  • The Inventor (Blue Note, 1989)
  • Post-Motown Bop (Blue Note, 1991)
  • Gumbo (Evidence, 1994)

With the Jazz Tribe

  • The Jazz Tribe (Red, 1990)
  • The Next Step (Red, 1999)
  • Everlasting (Red, 2008)

With Steve Nelson

  • Live Session vols 1 and 2 (Red, 1985)

With Sam Rivers

With Superblue

With the Tailor Made Big Band

With Jack Walrath


  1. "Bobby Watson". International Council of Fine Arts Deans. Retrieved September 8, 2018. On August 23, 2014, coincidentally his 61st birthday
  2. Skelly, Richard. "Bobby Watson". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  3. "People: Faculty Directory: Bobby Watson, Jr". UMKC. Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2010-09-07.
  4. Burnett, Chris (2003-10-02). "Bobby Watson's Kansas City Big Band: Part 1-2". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2010-09-07.
  5. "Bobby Watson & Horizon | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  6. "Superblue". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
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