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15. – 18.4.2015, Frankfurt

Frankfurt Music Prize 2013

The Frankfurt Music Prize 2014 goes to Ernie Watts

Frankfurt Music Prize winner Ernie Watts

© Patricia Watts

The Frankfurt Music Prize was founded in 1980 and has been awarded annually by the Frankfurt Music Prize Foundation on the occasion of the international Musikmesse in Frankfurt since 1982.

It is awarded to musicians, composers, teachers and personalities from the world of music for special achievements in the fields of interpretation, composition, musicology or teaching.


The winners are chosen from the fields of classic, pop or jazz and, in alternate years, the Frankfurt Music Prize is presented to an individual from the classical or pop (rock, pop, jazz) sectors. In 2011, the Frankfurt Music Prize will go to a personality from the world of classical music.  

The Frankfurt Music Prize is worth € 15,000 Euro and is sponsored by the Federal Association of German Musical Instrument Manu­facturers (Bundesverband der Deutschen Musikinstrumenten-Hersteller e.V.) and Messe Frankfurt.

The Frankfurt Music Prize for 2014 goes to Ernie Watts

Ernie Watts has been selected for the Frankfurt Music Prize for his strikingly melodic saxophone style and his original tone language, with which he has already enriched several generations of musicians. In all works, the well-established musical personality of Ernie Watts can be heard clearly thanks to his individual instrumental style. This was one of the main reasons he was chosen as a ‘most valuable player’, which has now led to him being nominated for the Frankfurt Music Prize for his extraordinary services to music.

About Ernie Watts
Born in Norfolk, Virginia, 23 October 1945, Ernest James ‘Ernie’ Watts is an American jazz saxophone and flute player. Greatly influenced by John Coltrane’s playing on ‘Kind of Blue’, Watts began playing the saxophone when he was 13. After a short time studying music at West Chester University, he received a Downbeat scholarship for the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Although he plays soprano, alto and tenor saxophone, and flute, he has made his name primarily as a tenor saxophonist.

In 1966, he began playing in the Buddy Rich Big Band. In 1968, he moved to Los Angeles where he played with Gerald Wilson, Louis Bellson, and then Oliver Nelson, with whom he also toured Africa. During the following years, he worked as a studio musician. The renowned names on Watt’s musical curriculum vitae include Thelonious Monk, Aretha Franklin, Freddie Hubbard, Clark Terry, Quincy Jones, Frank Zappa and Jean-Luc Ponty. He toured Asia with Pat Metheny in the eighties and even went on tour with the Rolling Stones in 1981.

Watts has been a member of Charlie Haden’s ‘Quartet West’ for more than 25 years, with Haden on double bass, Alan Broadbent on piano, and Larance Marable (and now Rodney Green) on drums.  He is on all their recordings, including Quartet West, Haunted Heart, Now is the Hour and Always Say Goodbye. These recordings brought him to the attention of a wider audience. Parallel to this, he also played in Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra. Ernie Watts has also been involved in many film music recordings including The Color Purple, Ghostbusters, Tootsie, Fame, and The Fabulous Baker Boys.

Under his own name, he has recorded albums with many artists including Jack DeJohnette, Arturo Sandoval and Eddie Gomez. The members of his European quartet are Christof Sänger, Rudi Engel and Heinrich Köbberling.  In 2004, Ernie Watts founded Flying Dolphin Records with his wife Patricia.  He has released seven albums on his own label so far.  “This gives me the flexibility and control I need to record my music as I hear it,” Watts says.

Watts has been involved in more than 500 productions, teaches master classes at colleges and universities, and performs orchestral programs with symphonies internationally.  He is one of the world’s most experienced saxophonists. With 23 albums in his own name, he has generated an impressive artistic legacy – not only in the studio but also on the world’s major stages. Ernie Watts has twice been awarded a Grammy.

As the official representative of Keilwerth, Watts plays saxophones made by Julius Keilwerth.

The Frankfurt Music Prize will be presented to Ernie Watts at the Agora Stage on Friday, 14 March, during Musikmesse 2014.