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ernie watts

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Ernie Watts “He is one of the greatest living tenor saxophonists, at the top of his game.” Ian Patterson / All About Jazz

Born in Norfolk, Virginia, but raised in Wilmington, Delaware, Ernie Watts is an American jazz saxophonist and composer, especially known for his incomparable, always-recognized sound. Greatly influenced by John Coltrane’s playing on “Kind of Blue,” Watts began studying saxophone at 13. At 16 he played with the Delaware Symphony as a featured soloist, but also was learning jazz by ear. After high school Watts studied music at West Chester University, then won a Downbeat scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, renowned as a school for jazz.

In 1966, while at Berklee, he was asked to join Buddy Rich’s big band, and toured the world with Buddy. By 1968 he had moved to LA, playing with the big bands of Gerald Wilson, Louis Bellson, and Oliver Nelson, with whom he also toured Africa. Watts became first-call for reeds in the LA studios, winning Most Valuable Player awards several times doing film, television, and music recording for over 25 years. Film scores where Watts is heard include The Color Purple, Ghostbusters, Tootsie, Fame and The Fabulous Baker Boys, among many others. He also recorded studio albums with Marvin Gaye, Frank Zappa, Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan, and many other pop, rock, and R&B groups, and was a member of the Doc Severinsen Big Band on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson for 20 years.

But his first love remained jazz. He recorded with Thelonious Monk, Freddie Hubbard, Clark Terry, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Quincy Jones, who produced Watts’ first Grammy-winning album “Chariots of Fire.” Watts toured Asia with Pat Metheny in the 80’s as part of Metheny’s Special Quartet, which included Charlie Haden. Haden began a new group, Quartet West, and Watts, a charter member, played and recorded with the late, critically-acclaimed Haden for over 25 years. The Quartet West recordings brought Watts to the attention of a wider jazz audience, and playing with Haden inspired him further to focus on playing acoustic jazz.

Today Watts has his own jazz groups on several continents, and works frequently in Europe with his Ernie Watts Quartet of over 15 years, based there. Under his own name, he has recorded with many jazz artists including Kenny Barron, Arturo Sandoval, Mulgrew Miller, Jack DeJohnette, and Eddie Gomez. In 2004, Watts founded Flying Dolphin Records with his wife Patricia, releasing eight albums on his label so far. “This gives me the flexibility and control I need to record my music as I hear it,” he says.

Ernie Watts has played on more than 500 recordings, teaches master classes at colleges and universities, and performs orchestral programs with symphonies internationally. With 24 albums in his own name, he has generated an impressive artistic legacy through his over fifty-year career—not only in the studio but also on the world’s major stages. Watts has been awarded two Grammys, and the Frankfurt Music Prize for lifetime achievement in performance and composition.

For more information check out www.erniewatts.com.


solo discography:

A Simple Truth

Ernie Watts Quartet

Flying Dolphin (2014)

Oasis

Ernie Watts Quartet

Flying Dolphin (2011)

Four Plus Four

Ernie Watts Quartet

Flying Dolphin (2009)

To The Point

Ernie Watts Quartet

Flying Dolphin (2007)

Analog Man

Ernie Watts Quartet

Flying Dolphin (2006)

Spirit Song

Ernie Watts Quartet

Flying Dolphin (2005)

ALIVE

Ernie Watts Quartet

Flying Dolphin (2004)

Reflections

Ernie Watts & Ron Feuer

Flying Dolphin (2003)

Classic Moods

Ernie Watts

JVC Music (1999)

The Long Road Home

Ernie Watts

JVC Music (1996)

Unity

Ernie Watts

JVC Music (1994)

Reaching Up

Ernie Watts

JVC Music (1993)

Stand Up

Ernie Watts

Odyssey (Singapore -1992)

Afoxé (“ah-foh-SHAY”)

Ernie Watts w/Gilberto Gil

CTI (1991)

Ernie Watts w/Gamalon

Ernie Watts w/Gamalon

Amherst (1989)

The Ernie Watts Quartet

Ernie Watts Quartet

JVC Music (1987)

Sanctuary

Ernie Watts

Qwest/Warner Bros (1986)

Musican

Ernie Watts

Qwest/Warner Bros. (1985)

Chariots Of Fire

Ernie Watts

Qwest/Warner Bros. (1981)

Look In Your Heart

Ernie Watts

Elektra (1980)

The Wonder Bag

Ernie Watts Encounter

Vault (1972)

Come Together

Ernie Watts with
-Richard "Groove" Holmes

World Pacific Jazz (1970)

Planet Love

Ernie Watts

World Pacific Jazz (1969)


awards

2014 -- FRANKFURT MUSIC PRIZE

GRAMMY AWARDS

1983 -- BEST POP INSTRUMENTAL FOR CHARIOTS OF FIRE

1985 -- BEST RHYTHM AND BLUES INSTRUMENTAL FOR MUSICAN (WB)

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