A native of Kansas City, Kan., Bobby Watson is considered one of the great present-day alto saxophonists. A graduate of the University of Miami, he moved to New York and began to play with the city’s finest musicians: Max Roach, Louis Hayes, George Coleman, and Sam Rivers. From 1977-81, he was a member of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers.
Watson launched the first edition of Horizon, one of post-bop’s most significant small groups, in the early 1980s. He has also led/co-led the High Court of Swing, Tailor Made Big Band, and the all-horn 29th Street Saxophone Quartet. He has recorded some 30 records as a leader/co-leader and appeared on 100+ additional recordings.
His most recent release, Made In America (Smoke Sessions; 2018), features Stephen Scott, Lundy and Lewis Nash. Previous to that, he self-produced Check Cashing Day (2013), which celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famed “I Have A Dream” speech.
In 2000, after three decades in New York, Watson returned to Kansas City where he was awarded the first William and Mary Grant/Missouri Professor of Jazz as an endowed chair and appointed UMKC’s Director of Jazz Studies.
Watson has received a number of awards recognizing his musical contributions. In 2011 he was inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of fame. In 2013 he received the prestigious Benny Golson Jazz Masters Award from Howard University in Washington, D.C. On his birthday, August 23, in 2014, he was selected as into the then-newly established 18th and Vine “Jazz Walk of Fame.” He joined Pat Metheny along with K.C. jazz icons: Count Basie, Jay McShann, Charlie Parker, and Mary Lou Williams.