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Artist Stories

Kobie Watkins

A Drummer’s Tribute to the Great Philly Joe Jones

Jazz Arts Initiative’s November edition of The JAZZ ROOM @ The Stage Door Theater will feature renowned drummer Kobie Watkins performing a tribute to drumming legend Philly Joe Jones.

A jazz drummer, educator, and conductor, Kobie Watkins leads the Triangle Youth Jazz Band in Durham between his teaching duties. Watkins has always admired the work played out before him from jazz pioneers like Philly Joe Jones.

“The drum is my voice. It was his voice…It was always about the music for Jones.”

Watkins has been manning drum sets since he was 8-years-old when he began playing the drums at his church. Further exposure to different kinds of music broadened his horizons.

“Whatever genre of music I could listen to or play, I did,”  said Watkins.

A resident of Durham, Watkins has had a remarkable career as a jazz drummer and educator across the Midwest and the Carolinas. After receiving multiple music degrees in Illinois, Kobie and his wife spent time in Idaho before moving south.

Kobie Watkins has always held Philly Joe Jones in high regard, from both a pedagogical standpoint as well as a humble fan.

“Jones’ rudimentary practices introduced me to methodical techniques that I had never heard,” he said. They just took me over.”

Philly Joe Jones’ incorporation of these rudiments into his playing, basic fundamentals behind most percussive music, has captured and inspired audience members and performers alike since his first appearances onstage.

Jones is perhaps most famous for playing with greats like Miles Davis, who employed the drummer full-time in his quintet and was known as Davis’ favorite drummer.

In the 1970’s, Philly Joe Joes led a fusion group, Le Grand Prix, toured with Bill Evans, recorded for Galaxy, and worked with Red Garland. In 1981, he led the group Dameronia.

Watkins is no stranger to performing with legends, as he has appeared alongside musicians such as Arturo Sandoval, Ira Sullivan, and Sonny Rollins.

The JAZZ ROOM @ The Stage Door Theatre will include the hits that featured Philly Joe Jones, such as classics from the aforementioned artists.

Watkins hopes that audience members will gain an insight into the life of Jones, including his work as a civil rights activist, as well Jones’ R&B side that has influenced countless Jazz performers.

For more information about The JAZZ ROOM shows on Friday, November 17 at 6 pm and 8:20 pm and Saturday, November 18 at 7 pm and 9:15 pm visit 

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