Bobby Watson Quartet
Saxophonist Bobby Watson studied formally at the University of Miami, and then moved to New York where he became a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, one of the most important groups in the history of jazz. He later formed Horizon, the quintessential contemporary hard bop quintet of the 1980s and ’90s. Known for his extraordinary ability to play swing, hard bop, and contemporary jazz, Watson has appeared at every major venue and jazz festival worldwide and has recorded more than one hundred albums as a leader, sideman, or guest artist.
He is one of the most gifted and prolific composers of his generation (with more than one hundred recorded compositions to his credit) and is the recipient of numerous national and international awards and citations, including being named #1 Alto Sax Player and Musician of the Year in DownBeat Magazine’s Critics Poll. Besides being an internationally acclaimed performer and composer, Watson is an esteemed jazz educator and enjoys working with up-and-coming young jazz artists. He serves as Professor Emeritus of Jazz Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and presents jazz workshops around the globe. His latest album, Keepin’ it Real (Smoke Session Records, 2020), has received critical acclaim. www.bobbywatson.com
A native of Venezuela, Edward Simon has made a name for himself as a jazz improviser, composer-arranger and band leader, as well as an explorer of the commonalities jazz can have with the folkloric sounds of Latin America. The New York Times has praised Simon’s “light, warm touch” as a pianist, while Jazz Journal International singled out “his deep emotional statements” as a composer and improviser.
In 1988, he recorded as a sideman with Greg Osby, and then was a member of the band Horizon led by Bobby Watson. For the next eight years he was a member of Terence Blanchard's band. He has also worked with Herbie Mann, Paquito D'Rivera, Bobby Hutcherson, Jerry Gonzalez, John Patitucci, Arturo Sandoval, Manny Oquendo, and Don Byron.
A member of the all-star SFJAZZ Collective, he has been a Guggenheim Fellow along with being awarded multiple composition grants as part of the Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works initiative. Simon, a Yamaha artist, has recorded fifteen albums as a leader or co-leader; his latest is Sorrows and Triumphs, released via Sunnyside Records in April 2018. This follows Simon’s 2016 album Latin American Songbook, with the four-and-a-half-star DownBeat review praising its “grand and sophisticated” sound. Latin American Songbook also won Simon an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album. Besides his trio he leads the Sexteto Venezuela, the Afinidad Quartet, and the group Simon, Simon & Simon with his brothers.
Essiet Okon Essiet first received critical acclaim more than a decade ago as a member of Bobby Watson's post hard bop group Horizon. He has long since established himself as one of New York's premier bassists. Born in Omaha, Nebraska to Nigerian parents, Essiet credits his early exposure to many cultures, languages, folkways, and religions to the fostering of his world view of strength through diversity. "Some musicians are purists" says Essiet, "but I like to mix styles.”
He has performed and recorded with notables Benny Golson, Johnny Griffin, James Moody, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Cedar Walton, Sam Rivers, George Adams, Pat Martino, Kenny Burrell, Jackie McLean, Frank Morgan, Kenny Barron, Louis Hayes, Ben Riley, Jimmy Cobb, Billy Higgins, Billy Hart, Art Farmer, Abby Lincoln, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Billy Cobham, Bennie Maupin, Al Foster, Eddie Henderson, Steve Turre, Jon Faddis, Bobby Watson, Victor Lewis, Kenny Garrett, Kenny Kirkland, Mulgrew Miller, Jeff "Tain " Watts, Mike Stern, Kevin Mahogany, Kurt Elling, Fort Apache Band, Danilo Perez, Claudia Acuna, Geri Allen, and Ralph Peterson, to name a few.
A seasoned veteran, drummer Akira Tana spent two decades on the New York scene accompanying many of jazz' greatest improvisers, including saxophonists Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, James Moody, Zoot Sims, Jimmy Heath, Warne Marsh and Sonny Stitt. He established himself as a bandleader with TanaReid, a group he founded with bassist Rufus Reid. During the 1990s, the group toured internationally, released six CDs, and boosted the profile of brilliant young players like saxophonists Ralph Moore and Mark Turner (a member of the SFJazz Collective from 2010-2012).
Originally formed to raise funds and spirits in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devasted northeastern Japan, the bandleader, producer, and internationally acclaimed jazz artist created the ensemble Otonowa, blending Akira’s musical mastery with his deep Japanese cultural roots. The strikingly beautiful body of music interprets traditional Japanese melodies through a modern jazz lens.