In the expansive world of saxophonists, few have managed to strike a balance between pure jazz artistry and commercial success like Ernie Watts. With a career spanning decades, Watts has showcased his remarkable talent in a myriad of contexts, from the most profound jazz ensembles to the flashing lights of pop culture stages.
Ernie Watts dove deep into the world of jazz demonstrating a passion for the saxophone from an early age. His technique, sound, and improvisational skills have earned him respect and admiration within jazz circles and beyond.
While many purist jazz musicians shy away from the commercial scene, Watts embraced it, lending his iconic sax sound to a range of projects:
- The Tonight Show: For many, their introduction to Ernie Watts was through “The Tonight Show.” As a part of Doc Severinsen’s band, Watts’ saxophone sound became a nightly fixture for millions of American households during the Johnny Carson era.
- Collaborations with Legends: Watts’ versatility made him a sought-after collaborator. He played alongside avant-garde genius Frank Zappa on “The Grand Wazoo”, toured and added his touch to the Rolling Stones and their “Still Life” album, and even collaborated with Eagles’ member Glenn Frey, providing that soulful sax sound on “The One You Love.”
- Film Soundtracks: Ernie Watts’ sax can be heard echoing through the annals of cinematic history. Notably, he performed on the soundtracks of iconic films like “Grease,” bringing a touch of 50’s sax nostalgia, and “The Color Purple,” where his instrument added depth and emotion to the narrative.
Beyond his commercial appearances, Ernie Watts is a two-time Grammy winner with numerous albums under his belt as a bandleader. His contributions to both jazz and popular music make him a unique figure in the music world, one who bridges the often distinct realms of artistic integrity and commercial appeal.
Happy birthday to living sax legend, Ernie Watts🎶