Saxophonist, composer, producer, and educator Bobby Watson grew up in Kansas City, KS. As a consequence, his playing is steeped in the roadhouse blues tradition of his native city. He got his formal education at the University of Miami, where his fellow students included Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorious, and Bruce Hornsby. The college has a distinguished, long-running, and well-respected jazz performance program. After he was graduated in 1975, he moved to New York City, the jazz capitol of the world, and soon found employment as musical director for Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Watson stuck with Blakey's group from 1977 to 1981, and then pursued session and tour work with more vigor, working with drummers Louis Hayes and Max Roach, saxophonists George Coleman and Branford Marsalis, multi-instrumentalist Sam Rivers, guitarist Carlos Santana and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. He's also worked with a who's-who in the jazz vocal world, including Joe Williams, Dianne Reeves, Lou Rawls, Betty Carter, and Carmen Lundy.
Finally he launched his own group, Bobby Watson & Horizon with bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Victor Lewis, and they recorded for Blue Note and Columbia Records. Watson and Horizon were in demand and on the road from the mid-'80s to the late '90s, and he still performs with the group, with differing sidemen. Watson has amassed nearly 30 recordings as a bandleader and he's a veteran sessionman, having recorded on more than 100 other recordings. As a composer, he has recorded more than 100 of his original compositions, and his arrangements for big bands have circulated internationally.
Watson, basing himself alternately in New York City and Kansas City, has been a first-call musician for more than three decades now, and he also served as a member of the adjunct faculty at William Paterson University in the mid-'80s and at the Manhattan School of Music from 1996-1999.
In 2000, he was selected as the first William D. and Mary Grant/Missouri Distinguished Professor of Jazz Studies, and he's been working at the University of Missouri/Kansas City, balancing live concerts around the world with his teaching responsibilities. Since 2000, Watson's recordings under his own name include three excellent releases for the Palmetto Records label, based in New York City. They include Live & Learn (2002), Horizon Reassembled (2004), and From the Heart (2008). ~ Richard Skelly