Jazz Musician & Composer
2017 Performer • 2018 Performer • 2019 Performer
Los Angeles, CA
The two-time Grammy-winner first picked up a saxophone almost 60 years ago, at 13. He heard John Coltrane on ‘Kind of Blue,’ at 14 and says, “It was as though someone put my hand into a light socket.” At 16, he was a featured soloist with the Delaware Symphony, but learning jazz by ear. At Boston’s Berklee College of Music on a Downbeat Scholarship, he joined Buddy Rich’s Big Band at 20, and toured the world, recording three albums with them.
In 1968 Watts moved to Los Angeles, and work in the studios. He became “first call” for all the reeds on films, TV, and over 500 pop records with icons such as Marvin Gaye, Steely Dan, Carole King, Frank Zappa, all the Motown artists, and spent 20 years in Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show band. He fit in jazz at night with his own groups.
Charlie Haden, iconic jazz bassist, chose Watts in 1985 for Quartet West, Haden’s legendary group for 30 years. Haden inspired Watts to move from production music in the studios to his central love, live jazz, where he is today.
In 2004 Watts and his wife Patricia started Flying Dolphin Records, a home for his music. “Horizon” is the label’s ninth release, recorded with his EU Ernie Watts Quartet, together for 17 years.
His jazz sound is also heard with other traditions; Dr. L. Subramaniam, the celebrated South Indian Classical violinist, and his traditional Indian group; Corky Siegel’s ChamberBlues, and Marcus Schinkel in Germany, whose group fuses jazz with Beethoven. He says, “It’s all music.”
Watts tours in Europe, Asia, and North America, teaches master classes at colleges and universities, and performs with symphonies.
Believing that music has the power to connect all people, Watts says,
“Music is God singing through us.”