October 21st, 2012
California saxophonist Ernie Watts backed by Seattle’s Marc Seales Trio opened the program at Saturday night’s Earshot Jazz Festival presentation at the Seattle Art Museum Plestcheeff Auditorium. Watts and Seales have collaborated for 15 years, playing at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant twice a year and recording two CDs together. Watts was saddened to hear of Gaye Anderson’s recent passing and hopes that the New Orleans will continue its tradition of live music.
Like Williams, Watts’ devotion to jazz began at an early age. He started playing saxophone at age 13 in Delaware. The next year, his mother bought him a small record player and joined the Columbia Record Club. The first free record was a new release by Miles Davis – Kind of Blue. The intensity of sound from saxophonist John Coltrane became a central focus for the rest of Watts’ life.
A DownBeat scholarship took him to Boston’s Berklee College of Music. He replaced saxophonist Gene Quill in the Buddy Rich Big Band and toured the world for two years. In 1969, he moved to Los Angeles and worked with Gerald Wilson and Oliver Nelson. Decades of work in recording studios followed and Watts toured with Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden. Watts became a charter member of Haden’s Quartet West, which is still working and recording after more than 25 years.
Watts and his wife Patricia formed Flying Dolphin Records in 2004, and tonight’s performance features music from his latest release Oasis. Watts says that he will be performing originals and tunes that he loves – Coltrane’s “Crescent,” Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird,” Dizzy Gillespie’s “Shaw Nuff.” The “music velocity and energy should be very enjoyable and invigorating,” Watts says.