January 18, 2010


(Julius Watkins and friend - taking it out from behind the horn section)

The French Horn is Jazz isn't a common instrument in any situation. It was used very rarely and usually with bands like Claude Thornhill, Boyd Raeburn and Stan Kenton. Until Julius Watkins took a whack at it, the French Horn was never considered a solo instrument. And probably with good reason - it's a difficult instrument to play. But in the 1950s, Watkins along with Charlie Rouse on Tenor sax, founded a group called Les Modes or later Les Jazz Modes which incorporated the French horn, putting it front and center in a solo capacity for the first time and also adding a wordless vocal chorus into the mix. The result was pretty astonishing for the time, but was not universally copied. Watkins had the corner on solo French Horns. The band was also augmented by Gildo Mahones on Piano, Martin Rivera on bass, Ron Jefferson on drums, Chino Pozo on bongos and the wordless Soprano is Eileen Gilbert.

In 1956 Dawn Records recorded a few albums with them and this cut, Mood In Scarlet is the title track off that album. Watkins and Rouse recorded for a number of labels throughout their careers, maintaining a small but devoted following for what is some nice and adventuresome music.

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