His Place Among The Stars

Bobby Watson honored on 18th & Vine Walk of Fame

Six leading lights in American Jazz, including UMKC’s own bobby Watson, will be honored with a place on the Walk of Fame at the 18th and Vine area’s Jazz District.

Watson, William D. and Mary Grant-Missouri Professor of Jazz Studies at UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance, is among the first class of inductees.

A star-studded concert at the Gem Theater will follow the Aug. 23 induction, showcasing the Count Basie Orchestra and a band under Watson’s direction.

Four of Watson’s classmates are jazz giants from the past: Count Basie, swing’s premier bandleader; Charlie Parker, unrivaled alto saxophone king; Mary Lou Williams, extraordinary composer, and Jay McShann, unmatched piano virtuoso. The fifth honoree is Pat Metheny, eminent jazz guitarist who, after a 40-year career, shows no signs of slowing down.

Rounding out the group is Watson. After 14 years at UMKC, his place in the firmament of alto sax players, edgy composers and top tier instructors seems secure.

A Grammy-nominated saxophonist, composer, producer, and educator, Watson trained formally at the University of Miami. His “doctorate” came as musical director of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He worked with notable jazz artists Max Roach, Louis Hayes, George Coleman, Sam Rivers and Wynton and Branford Marsalis, as well as vocalists Joe Williams, Dianne Reeves, Lou Rawls, Betty Carter and Carmen Lundy.

With bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Victor Lewis, Watson launched Horizon, an acoustic ensemble. He also has led the High Court of Swing (a tribute to the music of Johnny Hodges), The Tailor-Made Big Band, and is a founding member of the highly acclaimed 29th Street Saxophone Quartet. Watson also wrote original music for the sound track of director Robert De Niro’s “A Bronx Tale.”

Watson has performed on more than 80 recordings to date.

Commemorative bronze medallions for each artist will be placed on an expanse of 18th Street, passing in front of the Jazz Museum and the Gem Theater. The medallions and the performance were paid for with donations. Tickets for that Aug. 23 concert, which starts at 7 p.m., are $25 and can be ordered at Ticketmaster or at the Gem box office, 816-474-6262.
The City of Kansas City is contributing the installation work.

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