Kansas City native and jazz legend Bobby Watson is the first featured artist in the Midwest Trust Center’s 2023 Winterlude series – on Sun., Jan. 15, 7 p.m. at the Midwest Trust Center’s Yardley Hall on the campus of Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd, Overland Park.

For more than three decades, Watson, a saxophonist, has contributed consistently intelligent, sensitive and well-thought-out music to the modern-day jazz lexicon. 

Born in Lawrence, KS, and raised in Kansas City, KS, Watson trained formally at the University of Miami. He earned his “doctorate” – on the bandstand – as musical director of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.  

The saxophonist’s name and tunes are recognized across the globe. Watson’s jazz career started while at the University of Miami in the late 1970s. 

In addition to Blakey, Watson had the opportunity to work with jazz icons like Louis Hayes, George Coleman, Max Roach, Sam Rivers, and singers Joe Williams, Betty Carter, Lou Rawls and more.

Watson spent 25 years in New York and returned to Kansas City in 2000 on the request of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he was named as the first William D. and Mary Grant/Missouri Distinguished Professor in Jazz Studies at the school’s Conversatory of Music and Dance. 

In 2010, Watson produced the seven-part “Gates BBQ Suite,” a “labor of love” to celebrate his hometown’s famous food, with the music and track titles referencing the one-time family business. 

At the time of its release, “Gates” became the “perfect vehicle” for his UMKC jazz students. Watson took the orchestra to Japan and Europe, where it performed at many summer festivals.

Watson was inducted in the Kansas Music Hall of Fame in 2011. In 2013, he received the prestigious Benny Golson Jazz Master Award. A year later, he was selected as one of the first inductees to the then-new 18th and Vine District’s Jazz Walk of Fame.

In 2020, the saxophonist retired from UMKC. During his tenure, the UMKC program advanced and grew to where it’s now considered one of the nation’s prime jazz programs.  

Watson has issued nearly 30 recordings as a leader, appeared on more than 100 other recordings, and has recorded more than 100 original compositions. His compositions include the soundtrack of the movie “A Bronx Tale,” which marked Robert DeNiro’s 1993 directorial debut. 

Other artists in the 2023 Winterlude Jazz series are:  

March 19 – KC Jazz Disciples

Feb. 19 – Trent Austin Quartet

To purchase tickets, visit: https://bit.ly/3GcvuNx.