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Julius Watkins

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Julius Watkins (October 10, 1921–April 4, 1977) was an American jazz musician, and one of the first jazz French horn players. He won the Down Beat critics poll in 1960 and 1961 for “miscellaneous instrument” with french horn named as the instrument.

Watkins was born in Detroit, Michigan. He started playing French horn when he was nine years old, although he played the trumpet (a better-recognized jazz instrument) for the Ernie Fields Orchestra in the mid-1940s. By the late 1940s, however, he had some French horn solos on Kenny Clarke and Babs Gonzales’ records. After moving to New York City, Watkins studied for three years at the Manhattan School of Music. He started appearing in small-group jazz sessions, including two led by Thelonious Monk.

Watkins recorded with numerous jazz greats, including John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and Gil Evans, and the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra. He and Charlie Rouse co-led a group called Les Jazz Modes from 1956 to 1959, and he toured with Quincy Jones and his band from 1959 to 1961.

He died in Short Hills, New Jersey at the age of 55. The 1990s saw a “Julius Watkins Jazz Horn Festival” be named for him[1], but the festival has since been discontinued for lack of interest.

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