The Kitano in York
David Watson, Micheal LeDonne and Bob Cranshaw
Biography of David Leshare Watson
by Dave Nathan
Vocalist, jazz drummer, composer, record company executive, and a founder of the Sonoma Valley Jazz Society a nonprofit philanthropic organization, David Watson's "things to do" list is always long. Born in Florida, he moved to one of the cauldrons of jazz, Philadelphia, when he was eight where he adsorbed the jazz the city offered almost right away. His neighborhood was a place where John Coltrane, Ray Bryant, and Shirley Scott once lived. Fellow drummer Mickey Roker is his cousin. After hearing Ella Fitzgerald do "A-Tisket a-Tasket," he became hooked on the music. It wasn't until 1971, after he moved to San Francisco, that he began to perform professionally, working at such venues as Sweetwaters, singing and playing the drums. He worked with and formed some of the more exciting groups in and around the Bay Area, including Bay's West, which included hard boppers Eddie Henderson and Hadley Caliman. One of his most satisfying associations was with Chelsea, a group he later formed with Michele Hendricks. Moving to the Sonoma Valley in 1986, he mixed jazz and altruism by forming his nonprofit organization that holds jazz concerts with proceeds going to the foundation. There is also a comparatively altruistic vision in the way he runs the record company. Music in the Vines/Sonoma Jazz has opened its studios to talented jazz musicians who otherwise might not have had an opportunity, such as Australian pianist Bryce Rodhe, bass player Mahanaim Satya, vocalist Frankeye Kelly, and teenage trumpet whiz Oliver Hunt.
Of his own performing, while his vocalizing was influenced by the youthful attention to Fitzgerald, one hears in his scatting the inspiration of some of the earlier practitioners of the art of wordless vocalizing such as Cab Calloway and Leo Watson, as well as smooth delivery of Joe Williams. His 1998 debut album, Imprisoned Splendor, for Music in the Vines, is a good place to start to get an appreciation of the vocal, drumming, and composing artistry of David Watson.