January 15th, 2023, 7:00 pm
We are fortunate to have a jazz talent like Bobby Watson in our midst. Bobby helped shape the world of jazz. He is an internationally known star of his chosen instrument, the alto saxophone, which was also Charlie Parker’s chosen instrument. Bobby played Bird’s beloved saxophone on the concert stage with a symphony orchestra. He made that old plastic horn, on display at the American Jazz Museum, with all its faults sound wonderful in front of a packed house.
Backstage, a white-gloved Pinkerton guard carefully strolled around with the precious horn as if it was a crown jewel of the King of England. When the man handed it to Bobby, he stuck it in his mouth put his breath to it and made it come alive. He drove that old horn like a Maserati through the mountains of Italy, caressing each turn as if he had done it all his life.
He earned his doctorate on the bandstand as Musical Director of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, which led him to become a highly sought after musician in New York, working with notable artists such as drummers Max Roach and Louis Hayes, saxophonist George Coleman, and multi-instrumentalist Sam Rivers.
His acoustic quintet, Horizon was modeled after the Messengers with a bit of a modern twist and more of Bobby’s sensational songwriting. Horizon was considered the preeminent jazz small group for some 30 years. Bobby has since recorded on Blue Note, Columbia, Red, Palmetto, Smoke Sessions, and many more prominent labels, including his own popular recording label. About those big labels, Bobby will tell you straight, “All that glitters ain’t gold.”
Major stars of the jazz world will also tell you straight: Bobby is the man; he gave me a break when no-one else would. Folks like Christian McBride, Warren Wolf, Sean Jones, Terell Stafford, Branford Marsalis, and his brother trumpeter Wynton know that Bobby was there first, and he graciously opened the door for them.
Roy Hargrove, James Williams, and Mulgrew Miller would say the same if they were still with us. Bobby is the kind of man who shares his talent with those who came before, with his peers, and with thousands of young musicians around the world that have come ‘round since. His heart is open, and that’s what we’ll hear at jazz Winterlude on January 15th in Yardley Hall: Bobby Watson sharing his heart with all of us.