2-time GRAMMY Award winner and 4-time GRAMMY Nominee, saxophonist and composer Ernie Watts joins the show for the first time!
He has been playing the saxophone for more than fifty years and from age 16 on he has been playing professionally, initially while still attending school. He won a Downbeat Scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
While studying at Berklee, Watts was recommended by trombonist Phil Wilson (a Berklee professor) to replace Gene Quill in Buddy Rich’s Big Band, and left Berklee. Watts stayed with Rich from 1966-1968 and toured the world, also recording two albums with the band-Big Swing Face and The New One.
Next, Watts moved to Los Angeles and began working in the big bands of Gerald Wilson and Oliver Nelson. With the Nelson band, Watts visited Africa on a U.S. State Department tour in 1969. In addition, Watts had the occasion to record with the legendary Thelonious Monk on the album “Monk’s Blues” (Columbia).
During the 1970s and ’80s, Watts was immersed in the busy production scene of Los Angeles. His signature sound was heard on countless TV shows and movie scores, almost all the early West Coast Motown sessions, and with pop stars such as Aretha Franklin and Steely Dan. Watts has been featured on over 500 recordings by artists ranging from Cannonball Adderley to Frank Zappa.
In 1982 Watts won the Grammy for best Best Pop Instrumental Performance for the “Chariots of Fire Theme (Dance Version)”
In 1983, Watts performed with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra and also toured with Pat Metheny’s Special Quartet.
In 1985, Watts won the Grammy Best R&B Instrumental Performance (Orchestra, Group Or Soloist) for Musician.
Watts’ charter membership in Haden’s critically-acclaimed Quartet West, continued for almost 30 years until Haden’s death.
He has recorded 15 albums as a leader, for a variety of labels large and small, and in 2004, Watts started Flying Dolphin Records, releasing a series of critically acclaimed albums such as Alive, Spirit Song, Analog Man, To the Point, Four plus Four, Oasis and 2016’s Wheel of Time.
We talk about how he got his start playing music and how he developed, working with Buddy Rich, Thelonious Monk, his extensive studio work in the 70s and 80s, his GRAMMY Award winning recordings, his improvisational style as a solo artist, his solo discography and much, much more!