Sitting among the pantheon of present-day jazz greats, multi GRAMMY nominated composer, bandleader, educator and producer Bobby Watson’s career spans more than four decades. All told, the saxophonist has issued well over 40 recordings under his own name, while appearing on well over 100 other titles.
After formally studying at the University of Miami, Watson earned his “doctorate” as musical director of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, contributing to 14 Jazz Messengers recordings – more than anyone else in the group’s 35-year history. Earlier in his career, Watson also worked with notable jazz icons and elder statesmen such as Max Roach, Louis Hayes, George Coleman and Sam Rivers, as well as sharing music experiences with legendary vocalists such as Joe Williams, Lou Rawls, Betty Carter, Dianne Reeves and Carmen Lundy.
Later, in association with bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Victor Lewis, Watson launched the first edition of Horizon, the highly acclaimed acoustic quintet. He has also 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 29th Street Saxophone Quartet. Watson wrote original music for the soundtrack of Robert DeNiro’s directorial debut, A Bronx Tale. He has over 26 records as a leader and appears on more than 80 others.
After spending 25 years in New York where Watson was omnipresent on the jazz scene, the saxophonist and his wife, vocalist-composer Pamela Baskin-Watson, returned to Kansas City, where he was named the first William D. and Mary Grant/Missouri, Distinguished Professor in Jazz Studies at the school’s Conservatory of Music & Dance. In May 2020, after 20 years, the saxophonist retired from the post, transitioning into emeritus status while serving as an unofficial ambassador for the university’s Jazz Studies Department.
In 2011, the saxophonist was inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of fame. In 2013 he received the prestigious Benny Golson Jazz Masters Award from Howard University in Washington, D.C. Simultaneously, the Black National Caucus officially recognized his work in the Congressional Record. On August 23, 2014, he was selected as one of the first inductees into the then-newly established 18th and Vine “Jazz Walk of Fame.”
Double bassist, composer, producer, choir director, and arranger Curtis Lundy began his musical career in the all Miami Youth Jazz Band, and was classically trained at the University of Miami. He has studied privately with Cecil McBee, Linda McKnight, Jaco Pastorius, and Ron Carter.
Best-known for his work as part of jazz vocalist Betty Carter’s band, Lundy made his debut on the New York jazz scene in 1978. Over the years he has performed with an impressive list of musicians, including Art Blakey, Johnny Griffin, Freddie Hubbard, Pharoah Sanders, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Clark Terry, Sam Rivers, Stanley Turrentine, Idris Muhammad, Mulgrew Miller, Elvin Jones, Hank Jones, Sonny Stitt, Lionel Hampton, Phineas Newborn, Johnny Hartman, and Bobby Hutcherson.
As a bandleader, he’s issued Just Be Yourself (1989), Against All Odds (1999), and Purpose (2002). Lundy’s arrangement on “Walk With Me,” recorded by the ARC Gospel Choir, was sampled by rapper Kanye West and became the Grammy Award-winning hit “Jesus Walks.”
The New York Daily News once heralded Chestnut as the rightful heir to Bud Powell, Art Tatum and Erroll Garner. The soulful jazz pianist might just be proof positive of the impact that music has on babies in the womb. Either that, or a life in music was simply in his blood.
Chestnut’s father, a postal employee and the son of a church minister, was the official organist for the local church in Baltimore, Maryland, where Chestnut grew up. Young Cyrus’s home was filled with the sounds of the gospel music that his church-going parents played in their home, along with jazz records by artists such as Thelonius Monk and Jimmy Smith.
While Chestnut’s roots in gospel stemmed from his life at home and in the church, his passion for jazz was born not long thereafter. After graduating from the Berklee College of Music, Chestnut went on to work with jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks from 1986-88, and trumpeter Terrence Blanchard and saxophonist Donald Harrison from 1988-90, before joining jazz legend Wynton Marsalis in 1991. But Chestnut really cut his teeth in the business thanks to an association with Betty Carter, who he went on the road with for two years.
Throughout his career, Chestnut has worked with an array of artists, including saxophonists James Carter, Donald Harrison and Joe Lovano; trumpeters Roy Hargrove and Freddie Hubbard; jazzman Chick Corea, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, and opera singer Kathleen Battle.More recently Chestnut has collaborated with vocalists Vanessa Williams, Anita Baker, Bette Midler, Isaac Hayes, and Brian McKnight. Chestnut’s leadership and prowess as a soloist has also led him to be a first call for the piano chair in many big bands including the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band.
Victor Jones, considered a visionary in today’s music business, is a new breed of Drummer/Bandleader bringing new and exciting ideas to the world of jazz and world music. His former collaborator Stan Getz once called Jones a “top of the world caliber drummers.”
No stranger to traditional or modern jazz, Victor Jones started his career as a teenage musician playing in local bands in his native Newark, New Jersey and touring world-wide with Lou Donaldson. In his early twenties, he toured the world with Stan Getz. Later tours were with James Moody, Michel Petrucciani, Joe, Olivia, Stanley Clarke,, Phyllis Hyman, Dizzy Gillespie and Chaka Khan, among others.
Jones played on the GRAMMY nominated EMI Korean recording Second Moon, which won Record of the Year in 2006. He also was featured on the Best Latin Jazz recording in 2008 with Papo Vasquez. Since 2003 he’s led his own world music group, Cultur-Versy, specializing in a new age sound that blends dance music with hip-hop and electro pop.