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Douglas Watkins (March 2, 1934 – February 5, 1962) was an American jazz double bassist. He was best known for being an accompanist to various hard bop artists in the Detroit area, including Donald Byrd and Jackie McLean.
Watkins c. 1950
|Born||March 2, 1934|
Detroit, Michigan, United States
|Died||February 5, 1962(aged 27)|
|Instruments||Double bass, cello|
|Labels||Blue Note, Prestige, Atlantic|
|Associated acts||Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins, Hank Mobley, Charles Mingus, Red Garland, Donald Byrd, Kenny Burrell, Lee Morgan|
Watkins was born in Detroit, Michigan, United States. An original member of the Jazz Messengers, he later played in Horace Silver's quintet and freelanced with Gene Ammons, Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, Art Farmer, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Sonny Rollins, and Phil Woods among others.
Some of Watkins' best-known work can be heard, when as a 22-year-old, he appeared on the 1956 album, Saxophone Colossus by tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, with Max Roach and Tommy Flanagan. From that session, the tunes "Blue Seven" and "St. Thomas," especially, have become revered not only as evidence of Rollins' original genius but as fine examples of Watkins' work.
According to Horace Silver's autobiography, Let's Get to the Nitty Gritty, Watkins, along with Silver, later left Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers because the other members of the band at the time (Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley and Blakey) had serious drug problems, whereas Watkins and Silver were tired of being harassed and searched by the police every time they went to a gig in a new city and club.
In 1958, Watkins joined Donald Byrd for a European tour, taking up extended residence at Le Chat Qui Pêche, 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 time, one recorded in the club and another at a formal concert featuring Byrd's quintet.
Watkins was known for his superb tone and distinct phrasing. He had a distinct walking tone and was right on the beat, forming an organic, indivisible relationship with his instrument as he swayed with it in perfect time. Pianist Red Garland often stated that Watkins was his favorite bassist and that he was always in tune and never off-key. Watkins played with Garland in 1959, along with drummer Specs Wright.
While Watkins lived only to the age of 27, he appeared on well over 350 LPs in his career backing many major jazz stars of the time. When Charles Mingus briefly ventured over to the piano stool in 1961, he hired Watkins to take over the bass part; Oh Yeah!!! and Tonight at Noon were the results.
Watkins recorded only two albums as leader. Watkins at Large (1956) is an album for the tiny Transition label, made with fellow members of the Horace Silver Quintet of the time — most recently it has been available on a two-disc set, The Transition Sessions (Blue Note, 2002), which incorporates two additional Transition dates on which Watkins appears.
The other Watkins-led session, Soulnik (1960), with Yusef Lateef and reissued as part of the OJC series, features Watkins on cello with Herman Wright backing him on bass. The cello was an instrument he had started to play only three days before the recording session.
Watkins died in an automobile accident on February 5, 1962, while traveling from Arizona to San Francisco to meet drummer Philly Joe Jones for a gig. He fell asleep at the wheel and was hit head-on by an oncoming truck. The other occupants of the car, pianist Sir Roland Hanna and trumpeter Bill Hardman, survived the crash.
With Pepper Adams
- Baritones and French Horns (Prestige, 1957)
- Critic's Choice (World Pacific, 1957)
- The Pepper-Knepper Quintet (MetroJazz, 1958) with Jimmy Knepper
- 10 to 4 at the 5 Spot (Riverside, 1958)
With Gene Ammons
- Jammin' with Gene (Prestige, 1956)
- Funky (Prestige, 1957)
- Blue Gene (Prestige, 1958)
- Boss Tenor (Prestige, 1960)
- Velvet Soul (Prestige, 1960 )
- Angel Eyes (Prestige, 1960 )
- Nice an' Cool (Moodsville, 1961)
- Jug (Prestige, 1961)
With Art Blakey
- At the Cafe Bohemia, Vol. 1 (Blue Note, 1955)
- At the Cafe Bohemia, Vol. 2 (Blue Note, 1955)
- Originally (Columbia, 1956 )
With Tina Brooks
- Minor Move (Blue Note, 1958)
With Kenny Burrell
- All Night Long (Prestige, 1956)
- All Day Long (Prestige, 1957)
- Kenny Burrell (Prestige, 1957)
- K. B. Blues (Blue Note, 1957 )
- 2 Guitars - with Jimmy Raney (Prestige, 1957)
With Donald Byrd
- Byrd's Eye View (Transition, 1955)
- Byrd Blows on Beacon Hill (Transition, 1956)
- 2 Trumpets (Prestige, 1956) - with Art Farmer
- Jazz Eyes (Regent, 1957) - with John Jenkins
- Byrd in Paris (Brunswick, 1958)
- Parisian Thoroughfare (Brunswick, 1958)
- Fuego (Blue Note, 1959)
- Byrd in Flight (Blue Note, 1960)
- Chant (Blue Note, 1961)
With John Coltrane
- Dakar (Prestige, 1957 )
With Tommy Flanagan
- The Cats (Prestige, 1957)
With Curtis Fuller
- New Trombone (Prestige, 1957)
With Red Garland
- Coleman Hawkins with the Red Garland Trio (Swingville, 1959)
- Satin Doll (Prestige, 1959 )
- Rediscovered Masters (Prestige, 1959 )
With Benny Golson
- Gettin' with It (New Jazz, 1959)
With Bill Hardman
With Wilbur Harden
- Mainstream 1958 (Savoy, 1958)
With Thad Jones
With Yusef Lateef
With Jackie McLean
- Presenting... Jackie McLean (Ad Lib, 1955)
- Lights Out! (Prestige, 1956)
- 4, 5 and 6 (Prestige, 1956)
- Jackie McLean & Co. (Prestige, 1957)
- Alto Madness (Prestige, 1957) - with John Jenkins
- Bluesnik (Blue Note, 1961)
With Charles Mingus
With Hank Mobley
- Hank Mobley Quartet (Blue Note, 1955)
- The Jazz Message of Hank Mobley (Savoy, 1956)
- Mobley's Message (Prestige, 1956)
- Mobley's 2nd Message (Prestige, 1956)
- Jazz Message No. 2 (Savoy, 1956)
- Hank Mobley and his All Stars (Blue Note, 1957)
- Hank Mobley Quintet (Blue Note, 1957)
With Lee Morgan
With The Prestige All Stars
- Wheelin' & Dealin' (Prestige, 1957)
With Paul Quinichette
- On the Sunny Side (Prestige, 1957)
With Dizzy Reece
- Soundin' Off (Blue Note, 1960)
With Rita Reys
- The Cool Voice of Rita Reys (Columbia, 1956)
With Sonny Rollins
With Horace Silver
- Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers (Blue Note, 1955)
- Silver's Blue (Columbia, 1956)
- 6 Pieces of Silver (Blue Note, 1956)
With Louis Smith
- Here Comes Louis Smith (Blue Note, 1957)
With Idrees Sulieman
- Roots (New Jazz, 1958) with the Prestige All Stars
With Billy Taylor
- Interlude (Moodsville, 1961)
With Phil Woods
- Pairing Off (Prestige, 1956)
- Colin Larkin, ed. (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. p. 479. ISBN 1-85227-937-0.
- "Doug Watkins | Artists". Bluenote.com. Retrieved 2018-06-26.
- "Doug Watkins: The Hard Bop Homepage". Hardbop.tripod.com. Retrieved 2019-10-29.
- Silver, Horace (1 August 2007). Let's Get to the Nitty Gritty. University of California Press. ISBN 0520253922.