An Interview with Bobby Watson

Saxophonist kicked off 2009 Jazz on the Green Concert Series.

Omaha, Nebraska – Bobby Watson and his quartet opened the 25th Annual Jazz on the Green concert series Thursday night at Joslyn Art Museum. The performance was a spirited one, spearheaded by Watson, an accomplished saxophonist, composer, producer, and educator. The veteran saxophonist performed at Jazz on the Green in 2002 and 2005.

Bobby Watson grew up in Kansas City, Kansas. He trained formally at the University of Miami's distinguished jazz program and completed his program of studies on the bandstand as musical director of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Watson described the band as a "finishing school" for musicians and said that the band turned out more accomplished jazz musicians than even the various Miles Davis bands.

As a rising star in his own right in the 1980s,
Bobby Watson worked with a "who's who" of top musical talent--drummers Max Roach and Louis Hayes, fellow saxophonists George Coleman and Branford Marsalis, celebrated multi-instrumentalist Sam Rivers, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, and vocalists Joe Williams, Dianne Reeves, Lou Rawls, Betty Carter, and Carmen Lundy. As a result Watson has appeared as a sideman or a guest musician on countless recordings over the years. His appearance on the Old Friends, New Point recording of 2001 yielded a phenomenal reading of "Wichita Lineman" that is a prime example of Watson's creativity as an accomplished saxophonist.

Watson was a co-founder of the first edition of Horizon, an acoustic quintet considered one of the preeminent small groups of the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. Watson also wrote original music for Robert DeNiro's directorial debut, A Bronx Tale. He has dozens of recordings to his name, and his 1986 Love Remains is a "must have" for any jazz aficionado.

Currently based out of Kansas City, Watson is an accomplished educator at the University of Missouri/Kansas City Conservatory of Music and is a much sought after authority on jazz music.

Watson's concert in Omaha Thursday night yielded a lively mix of original and standard jazz tunes that the band interpreted with hard to resist enthusiasm. The show kicked off the 25th Annual Jazz on The Green series, which continues through August 20. The series is open to the public. For more information you may visit Joslyn Art Museum is located at 2200 Dodge Street in Omaha.

On Thursday's Jazz in the Afternoon I presented excerpts of an interview I did with Bobby Watson over the phone. You may listen to the interview in its entirety by clicking on the link above. Recording engineer: Mike Hansen/KIOS.

Visit Bobby Watson on the web at

Photo: Chris Cooke/KIOS.