Watkins, Julius (Detroit, 10 Oct 1921 - Short Hills, NJ, 4 April 1977)


French horn player



He took up french horn at the age of nine, but in order to earn his living played trumpet with the big bands of Ernie Fields (1943-6) and Milt Buckner (1949-50). Thereafter he performed exclusively on french horn, on which he was the first to improvise fluently in the bop style. He studied at the Manhattan School of Music for three years, then recorded with Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins (1953), toured with Pete Rugolo (1954), and, with Charlie Rouse, joined Oscar Pettiford's sextet. In 1956 he and Rouse, with Gildo Mahones, Pettiford, and Ron Jefferson, formed Les Modes (later the Jazz Modes), a bop quintet; at times the group was enlarged to include the singer Eileen Gilbert and additional instrumentalists, such as Sahib Shihab and Chino Pozo. When it disbanded for lack of work, Watkins played with George Shearing (1959) and Quincy Jones (1961). Thereafter he worked as a freelance orchestral player in Broadway shows and as a session musician, recording with John Coltrane (1961), Tadd Dameron (1962), Milt Jackson (1963), Freddie Hubbard (1963), the Jazz Composer's Orchestra (1969), and, most frequently, Gil Evans (1958-64, 1969).


 Barry Kernfeld


The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Macmillan Reference Ltd 1988