Douglas Watkins was born on March 2, 1934 in Detroit Michigan. After gaining experience and a reputation as one of many very talented jazzmen on the local Detroit scene, Watkins began touring with James Moody in 1953 followed by a stint with the Barry Harris Trio. In 1954 he settled in New York City and was an original member of the Jazz Messengers from 1955 – 56.
Doug went on to spend a year with Horace Silver and then freelanced with a who’s who list of the hard boppers such as Art Farmer, Kenny Burrell, Phil Woods and Hank Mobley. In 1956 at just 21 years old he was a sideman on Sonny Rollins’ “Saxophone Colossus” alongside Max Roach and Tommy Flanagan, showcasing examples of his fine work on Blue 7 and St. Thomas.
In 1958 Watkins joined Donald Byrd for a European tour, taking up extended residence at Le Chat Qui Peche, a jazz club on Paris’ Left Bank. Along with Byrd, tenor saxophonist Bobby Jaspar, pianist Walter Davis, Jr. and drummer Art Taylor, Watkins made two albums with Byrd during this period, one recorded in the club and another at a formal concert featuring Byrd’s quintet. In 1961 he joined Charles Mingus’ group when Mingus temporarily ventured onto the piano stool, producing such gems as “Oh Yeah!!!” and “Tonight At Noon”.
Doug was known for his superb walking tone and distinct phrasing that was right on the beat, forming an organic, indivisible relationship with his instrument as he swayed with it in perfect time. Throughout his short but prolific career Watkins produced only two sessions as a leader but became the bassist of choice when his cousin by marriage, Paul Chambers was unavailable. He appeared on over 350 recordings working with Red Garland, Yusef Lateef, Philly Joe Jones, Bill Hardman, Gene Ammons and Lee Morgan just to name a few giants.
The hard bop jazz bassist Doug Watkins died in a head-on automobile crash on February 5, 1962 when he fell asleep behind the wheel while driving from Arizona to San Francisco to play a gig with Philly Joe Jones. He was just 27 years old but his legacy as a superb musician, unselfish and enabling ensemble player and a bassist-walker with few peers remains today.
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Bobby Jaspar was born February 20, 1926 in Liege, Belgium and at a very young age learned to play piano and clarinet. He later took up the tenor saxophone and flute that became his working instruments. Bobby took his first steps in the jazz world with the Bop Shots band but in 1950, Jaspar moved to Paris, played and recorded with the best musicians of the era and met his future wife, Blossom Dearie.
In 1956, Jaspar was persuaded to try his luck in the U.S. where his reputation in jazz circles had preceded him. He played and recorded with J. J. Johnson, Kenny Burrell, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Donald Byrd and many others.
In 1961/1962, Jaspar returned to Europe for a year for a series of concerts and a number of recordings. With his colleague, Belgian guitarist Rene Thomas, they formed a successful quintet and in some sessions, this was expanded to a powerful sextet with American trumpeter Chet Baker.
Bobby Jaspar, tenor saxophonist and flautist of the hard bop and cool jazz genres, died from a heart attack in New York City on February 28, 1963 at age 37.
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Stefano di Battista was born on February 14, 1969 in Rome Italy. He began studying the saxophone at the age of 13 years in a band made up primarily of boys. It was during this period that he discovered the fun of making music. By the time he was sixteen he had become interested in jazz and the sound of Art Pepper and found his mentor, Massimo Urbani.
Enrolling in The Conservatory, Stefano perfected his technique with classical tradition, graduated with honors and by twenty-one was playing in groups of various configurations. 1992 finds him playing the Calvi Jazz Festival and is invited to perform in Paris. Traveling between Rome and Paris he lands two engagements, is hired to play with the National Jazz Orchestra and his career takes off.
Di Battista put out “Volare”, his debut as a leader in 1997, has toured with the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine as well as performing with Jimmy Cobb, Walter Booker, Nat Adderley, Laurent Cugny, Aldo Romano, Jacky Terrasson and many others. The alto and soprano saxophonist continues to record, perform and tour both as a leader and sideman.
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Gregory Tardy was born February 3, 1966 in New Orleans, Louisiana but was reared in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His interest in music began studying classical clarinet. By high school he excelled in music, winning many awards and scholarships, studying with renowned clarinetists and preparing for a symphony career. Over time he was asked to play saxophone, filling missing gaps in various high school and college ensembles. But it was the prodding of his older brother that made him explore the music of John Coltrane, and decide to follow a jazz path.
Gregory’s passion for the saxophone took over his studies, he moved to St. Louis, played the jazz and blues scene, returned to New Orleans to further study, gigged with the Neville Brothers and ended up in bands led by Nicholas Payton, Jason and Ellis Marsalis. In 1992, Tardy recorded his first solo project “Crazy Love”, was picked up by Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, and moved to New York City.
His performance and recording lists a large array of prominence not limited to Tom Harrell, Dave Douglas, Wynton Marsalis, Jay McShann, Steve Coleman, Betty Carter, James Moody, Ravi Coltrane, Mark Turner, Dewey Redman, Chris Potter, Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell, Rashied Ali and John Patitucci. He has even brought his clarinet out of retirement playing with Andrew Hill, Steve Swallow, Stefan Harris and others.
Tardy continues to explore new territory while keeping in the tradition as he play his own music and perform in many great bands. As an educator he teaches private lessons and facilitates clinics around the world, but always speaking through his horn.
Roger Humphries was born January 30, 1944 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and began playing drums at age four, and went professional at age 14. He led an ensemble at Carnegie Hall at age 16. Early in the 1960s, he began touring with jazz musicians; one of his more prominent gigs was in a trio with Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Scott in 1962.
In 1964, he played with Horace Silver on Song For My Father, following this Humphries drummed for Ray Charles. He led his own band “R. H. Factor” in the 1970s, and led ensembles under other names into the Nineties, recording under his own name in 1993, 2003 and 2011. He held teaching positions at the University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts.
Humphries’s list of credits in jazz, R&B, and pop is extensive playing with Lee Morgan, Grant Green, Billy Taylor, Benny Green, Coleman Hawkins, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, Jack McDuff, Jon Faddis, Joe Williams, Herbie Mann, Gene Harris, Milt Jackson, Slide Hampton and the list goes on. Drummer and big band leader Roger Humphries continues to perform.
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