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Monday, September 13, 2010
Image via WikipediaBobby Watson: On Jazz And BBQ : A Blog Supreme : NPR
When alto saxophonist Bobby Watson returned to Kansas City, it was a big deal. Despite its jazz legacy, Kansas City felt overlooked compared to other jazz towns, and often lost its best musicians to bigger cities. So for one of its own to return — especially a world-class player like Watson — brought a lot of buzz to the tight-knit scene.
Watson is a Kansas City-area native, but he left in order to make a name for himself in the jazz world. He attended the University of Miami alongside fellow students Pat Metheny and Jaco Pastorius. After he graduated in 1975, Watson moved to New York City and played with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers from 1977-1981. He's played with nearly everyone, from Max Roach, George Coleman and Branford and Wynton Marsalis to Dianne Reeves, Betty Carter and even Carlos Santana.
After more than 25 years touring the world and living in New York, Watson returned to his hometown in 2000 to serve as the William and Mary Grant-Endowed Professor of Jazz and Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Now, the veteran saxophonist and professor has released the album of his long-awaited, seven-part work for large ensemble: The Gates BBQ Suite. (The piece premiered in December 2008 in a live performance with UMKC’s Conservatory Concert Jazz Orchestra.) Watson says the suite — more than five years in the making and completely self-financed — is a "dream piece," a labor of love. But it's also a supremely fun collection of songs in a classic big band tradition.