Growing Kansas: The Newsletter
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BOBBY WATSON sits among the pantheon of present-day jazz greats. Born in Kansas City, Kan., the GRAMMY®-nominated saxophonist, composer, bandleader, educator and producer, moved to New York in 1975, remaining there for 25 years as a front-line, in-demand artist. For four years, from 1977-1981, he served as musical director of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, contributing compositions while appearing on 14 of the legendary drummer’s recordings. The saxophonist also worked with elder statesmen such as Max Roach, Louis Hayes, George Coleman and Sam Rivers.
Meeting contemporaries – bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Victor Lewis – led Watson to create Horizon, the acclaimed quintet modeled similarly to The Messengers, but owning a more modern sound. Horizon became a small-group fixture during the 1980s-1990s, recording titles for the Blue Note and Columbia labels. Simultaneously, Watson led the High Court of Swing (a tribute to Johnny Hodges), his GRAMMY®-nominated Tailor Made Big Band and co-led the 29th Street Saxophone Quartet cooperative.
In 2000, Watson returned to Kansas City, invited, at the behest of the UMKC, to become the first William D. and Mary T. Grant Distinguished Endowed Professor in Jazz Studies, a position he held for 20 years before retiring earlier in 2020. As Director of Jazz Studies, the UMKC program grew substantially and now is considered one of the country’s finest.
In 2010, the saxophonist self-produced The Gates BBQ Suite. The recording celebrates Kansas City’s most famous food. Gates became a perfect vehicle to involve students. “Watson serves up some ‘down to the bone’ goodness in The Gates BBQ Suite, wrote All About Jazz. “The seven-part suite for large ensemble features the UMKC Conservatory of Music Jazz Orchestra, and is a heartfelt tribute to Watson’s hometown.” Watson’s self-produced Check Cashing Day followed; the 2013 release honors the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. In 2017, Watson released Made in America (Smoke Sessions). This time, the saxophonist’s well-conceived thematic project focused on lesser-known Black figures; each original composition pays homage to a different person. In 2019, Watson joined fellow saxophonists Vincent Herring and Gary Bartz, participating in Bird At 100 (Smoke Sessions), an obvious nod to the Charlie Parker Centennial. Watson’s latest Smoke Sessions project, Keepin’ It Real, is a crisp recording filled with new compositions. The saxophonist has now issued some 40 recordings as a leader and appears on more than 100 other titles.
During his now four-decade career, Watson, deservedly, has received numerous awards recognizing his 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 with the Black National Caucus recognizing him in the Congressional Record. On August 23, 2014, he became one of the first six inductees into the 18th and Vine “Jazz Walk of Fame,” joining Pat Metheny and hometown jazz cornerstones: Count Basie, Jay McShann, Parker and Mary Lou Williams. Energetic as ever, Watson’s 2021 post-Pandemic plans include touring and performing throughout the United States and abroad.
BOBBY WATSON’S well-documented performance, composing, conducting and arranging skill set makes him not only one of the finest saxophonists in the world, but also someone who possesses enormous teaching experience; he can work with students OR community musicians as a special guest. His command in each area allows for flexibility as a Touring Roster Artist. He can deliver and lead formal and less-formal concerts in varied venues and of varying lengths. He can lead a small group of nationally known artists on tour in the Midwest and beyond; he can lead a large-ensemble performance utilizing community and/or student musicians. Performances can unfold as a single longer set (up to 90-min); or in two sets (50-60 min.) with an intermission. He’s comfortable performing larger venues – 2,000+ capacity – or in a club or a more intimate fine arts auditorium, as well as in libraries and museums. Watson can lead a variety of master classes, working with aspiring high-school and college-age students as well as serving as a special guest/artist-in-residence in an extended stay with the opportunity to perform with student ensembles. As someone who knows jazz lineage, he can also appear in community settings and discuss jazz-related history topics.
ALL FEES ARE NEGOTIABLE.
Fees are meant to serve as reference points. Mr. Watson recognizes that presenters and activity organizers come in all shapes and sizes, and have a myriad of activities – and the resources to see them successfully take place. If performance-oriented events and/or residencies include more than one type of activity – performance, educational/residency, community activity – fees can be amortized and negotiated in a mutually agreeable manner on a case-by-case basis.
Accommodation/Hospitality costs are in addition to Artist Fee.
Travel Costs (Air/Ground) are negotiated on a case-by-case basis. They may be included as part of the Artist Fee and/or required in addition to the Artist Fee.
Block booking is greatly encouraged – AND minimizes/eliminates restrictions. If several presenters, educators, communities, et. al., can organize and coordinate the timing of when Mr. Watson or he and one of his ensembles appears, then the overall cost – including potential travel costs – might very well be reduced per participant, based on multiple communities booking on consecutive/near-consecutive days. Mr. Watson’s schedule tends to fill up quickly, sometimes quite far in advance. The more advance planning that can be done on the part of host(s) organizations, then the greater likelihood engagements can be confirmed in a timely and efficient manner – especially if a group of presenters throughout the state and beyond would like to coordinate engagements.
BOBBY WATSON is generous with his time. The saxophonist is more than willing to spend time in communities and meet in both formal and less settings. Mr. Watson has led programs in libraries, museums and senior facilities, to name a few alternative spaces, where he can discuss a wide range of topics – from Kansas City-related jazz history to the history of the saxophone, to talking about a number of important saxophonists and artists who have greatly impacted jazz as a whole. He is equally comfortable delivering a program to much younger students, say at elementary schools, where he can introduce them to jazz principles in a meaningful and impactful way. He is pleased to meet with band directors and discuss all aspects of jazz education, sharing his experience and insights into curriculum, methodology and the like. The opportunities for community activities of all kinds are plentiful, indeed.
BOBBY WATSON is a dynamic educator-participant. In addition to his serving as Director of Jazz Studies at UMKC Conservatory of Music & Dance (2000-2020) where he taught scores of students, he has also traveled throughout the United States and internationally during the course of his four-decade career offering master classes and workshops to students and adults alike.
He has served as a “Special Guest” at High School and College Jazz Festivals, where he works directly with band directors/faculty and teachers – and their student musicians – to create and then participate in engaging and entertaining public performances. Similarly, he has worked with quality community bands comprised of amateur, but accomplished citizens. BOBBY WATSON is a dynamic educator-participant. In addition to his serving as Director of Jazz Studies at UMKC Conservatory of Music & Dance (2000-2020) where he taught scores of students, he has also traveled throughout the United States and internationally during the course of his four-decade career offering master classes and workshops to students and adults alike.
He has served as a “Special Guest” at High School and College Jazz Festivals, where he works directly with band directors/faculty and teachers – and their student musicians – to create and then participate in engaging and entertaining public performances. Similarly, he has worked with quality community bands comprised of amateur, but accomplished citizens. Likewise, after a series of rehearsals, his presence leads to one or more public performances. Mr. Watson’s music and charts are available to all. In some instances, charts are included with his fee; in other case, additional compensation for usage is required. Most of his 100-plus compositions can be performed in both small and large ensemble configurations.