Derek Watkins – trumpet hero

March 24, 2013 at 11:21 am (good people, jazz, Jim D, music)

An unsung hero of British music has died:

Derek Watkins, the British trumpet player who played on every James Bond film soundtrack from Dr No to Skyfall, has died aged 68.

He died at home in Esher, Surrey, on Friday after a lengthy illness – Philip Biggs, editor of the Brass Herald said.

Watkins was “widely considered to be the foremost British Big Band trumpet player” of all time, said Mr Biggs.

The trumpeter, who turned professional aged 17, is survived by his wife Wendy and their three children.

He was born into a brass band family and was taught to play the cornet at the age of four by his father.

Watkins then played in the band his father conducted – the Spring Gardens Brass Band in Reading – of which his grandfather was also conductor and a founder member.

He honed his skills as a both a “reader” and an “improviser” with his father’s dance band before turning professional.

Watkins was described as “Mr Lead” by Dizzy Gillespie; as well as the Bond films he played with the Beatles, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Frank Sinatra, the London Symphony Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra during his lengthy career.

He also played with the BBC Big Band and worked  for band leaders Johnny Dankworth, Maynard Ferguson and Benny Goodman, all of whom who recognised his underrated jazz ability.

Mr Biggs described his friend as “a people’s person – no side, no ego, a fun loving musician who couldn’t get enough of life, who loved his family”.

[Adapted from the BBC Entertainment & Arts website]

Recommended listening: ‘Warren Vaché meets Derek Watkins with the Brian Lemon Quartet, Stardust’, Zephyr CD ZECD9 (1996) – ignore the unenthusiastic review, here.

Details here of Derek’s Sarcoma charity – buy the t-shirt!

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