The French Horn and Jazz
Julius Watkins and John Graas was one of the first jazz French horn soloists. Julius Watkins won the Down Beat critics poll in 1960 and 1961 for “miscellaneous instrument” with French horn named as the instrument. Watkins recorded with numerous jazz greats, including John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and Gil Evans, Phil Woods, Clark Terry, Johnny Griffin, Randy Weston, and the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra. He co-led, with Charlie Rouse, the group Les Jazz Modes from 1956 to 1959, and he toured with Quincy Jones and his band from 1959 to 1961.
John Graas had a short but busy career on the West Coast, known primarily as one of the first and best French horn players in jazz. Graas recorded a few albums under his own name, including French Horn Jazz (1953), Coup de Graas (1956), and Jazzmantics (1957). His “Jazz Chaconne No. 1” was an example of his ambitious attempts to fuse jazz with classical music. It appeared on International Premiere in Jazz (1958) with his “Jazz Symphony No. 1”, which, despite its title, was far more classical than jazz.