Trevor Watts



Born in York, England; alto and soprano saxophone.

Trevor Watts was born in York but moved to Halifax when very young. He is mainly self taught on saxophones. He first began playing with John Stevens and Paul Rutherford while stationed in Germany in the Royal Air Force (1959-1963). On leaving the RAF he became a founding member of the New Jazz Orchestra and during 1963 and 1964 played with various blues and rock musicians including Rod Stewart and Sonny Boy Williamson. In 1965 he re-met Stevens who became the drummer in the quintet co-led by Watts and Rutherford; with the opening of the Little Theatre Club in London in 1966, this group became the Spontaneous Music Ensemble (SME), went through various personnel changes and group sizes during the next year, finally working as the reduced core of Evan Parker and John Stevens. During this time, Trevor Watts left the SME to form the first version of Amalgam with Barry Guy. and others. In the spring of 1968 Trevor Watts re-joined the SME and he and John Stevens became the mainstay of the group until 1976 playing, as before, with a wide membership varying from the ad hoc to the more permanent. Watts was also a member of the early versions of Steven's more rock- based projects like 'Away'.

If the SME was always seen as Stevens' group, Amalgam was very much driven by Watts. In its 13 year life (1967 to 1979) it explored mixtures of jazz, improvised music, folk and traditional musics, and rock and 'fusion' with a wide variety of musicians such as Barry Guy, John Stevens, Harry Miller, Colin McKenzie, Keith Rowe, Keith Tippett, and Liam Genockey. Watts has also been a member of Stan Tracey's Open Circle (with Danny Thompson and John Stevens), the Louis Moholo Group (with Frank Wright), the Bobby Bradford Quartet, as well as being a founder member of the London Jazz Composers' Orchestra.

The original 10-piece Moiré Music was formed in 1982, primarily to work through compositional ideas, in contrast to the already extant Drum Orchestra for improvisational musics, in particular using free improvisation with rhythm. Moiré Music membership has included Lol Coxhill, Simon Picard, Pete McPhail, Paul Rogers, Veryan Weston, Liam Genockey, Nana Tsiboe and, Steeleye Span violinist Peter Knight. In 1990 the two projects were merged into the present Moiré Music Drum Orchestra which has toured extensively in Latin America, Africa, North America, the Caribbean, Asia, New Zealand as well as all of Europe. Following a tour of Venezuela, in 1992 Watts initiated a short European tour with the groups Guaricongo and Teatro Negro de Barlovento from the Afro-Venezuelan tradition, with the umbrella title, Una sola voz.

The Moiré Music Trio was formed in 1994 (1996 personnel: Watts, alto and soprano saxophones; Colin McKenzie, bass guitar; Marc Parnell, drums) and the Drum Orchestra had this trio as its core, featuring long-term associates from Ghana: Nana Tsiboe, Jojo Yates and Nana Appiah on African percussion, voices, mbiras, gonjes (African violins), etc. In 1996 a multicultural project featured 4 drummers/singers from the Trinidadian Ujamaa Ambatana performing group, Tony Oxley, percussion, Eoin Duigan (Ullean pipes), and Colin McKenzie (bass guitar). In 1999 Watts started playing duos with Steeleye Span violinist Peter Knight, after a break of over ten years when Knight was a member of Moiré Music; Knight has his own web site at:

In addition to the above associations, Trevor Watts has played with Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, Denardo Coleman and Jayne Cortez. He runs his own record label, Arc.

Over the years, Trevor Watts has received many commissions and grants, of which some are:

1970s: Thames Television Scholarship with John Stevens teaching their musical methods in schools
1984: Bracknell Festival commission for 14-piece Moiré Music
1985: Contemporary Music Network Tour with 10-Piece Moiré Music
1992: Arts Council grant for new compositions for joint Moiré Music Drum Orchestra and Teatro Negro de Barlovento (Venezuela) collaboration (35-piece)
1995: Royal Academy of Music workshop
Also: Arts Council grants for compositions and to issue recordings and British Council tours to Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Caribbean Islands, New Zealand, India, Burma, Cameroon, South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana.
Trevor Watts' current groups are: e-mail:; alternatively contact via: Jeff Glovsky, PO Box 230012, Ansonia Station, New York, NY 10023; tel: + 212 582 6662; fax: + 212 397 4315;;

Further reading

Davidson, Martin (1995), Notes in leaflet accompanying CD release of Face to face, Emanem 4003 (borrowed from above).

Johnston, Mike (1994), Trevor Watts Moiré Music: a wider embrace. Coda, no. 257, (September), pp. 30-32.


It seems convenient to broadly divide Trevor Watts' recordings into his main musical endeavours - Amalgam, Moiré Music, Spontaneous Music Ensemble, other recordings with John Stevens, the LJCO - with a catchall for those items that fall outside these five areas.


1969, Prayer for peace, Transatlantic TRA 196/FMRCD96-V0402.
1969, Prayer for peace, No Business Records NBLP16.
1972/1973, Play Blackwell and Higgins, A Records A002.
1974, Innovation, Tangent TGS 121.
1976, Mad, Synthon VR 20020.
1976, Another time, Vinyl Records VS 100.
1977, Samanna, Vinyl Records VS 104.
1977. Deep, Vinyl Records VS 108.
1978, Closer to you, Ogun OG 528/Hi 4 Head Records HFHCD019.
1979, Over the rainbow, Arc 01.
1979, Wipe out, Impetus 47901.

Moiré Music, including Trio and Drum Orchestra

1985, Trevor Watss' Moiré Music, Arc 02.
1982/1986, Unexpected pleasures, Arc 05.
1983, Burundi Monday, FMR CD198-0206.
1986, Saalfelden encore, Cadillac SGC 1015.
1988, With one voice, Arc 03.
1989, Druga godba, DG 007.
nd, Rock against racism, Cassette; no label. Made to help raise funds for the Hastings area anti-Apartheid group.
1989, Drum energy!, Hi 4 Head Records HFHCD006. The Original Trevor Watts Drum Orchestra.
1989, Live 1989, Arc 04. Trevor Watts Drum Orchestra.
1990, Live in Latin America, vol. 1, Arc 06. Trevor Watts Moiré Music Drum Orchestra.
1993, A wider embrace, ECM 1449. Trevor Watts Moiré Music Drum Orchestra.
1995, Moiré Music Trio, Intakt 039.
1996, Moiré Music Trio, Promotional cassette featuring new Trio line-up (Marc Parnell on drums).
1998/1999, Live at the Athens Concert Hall, Arc CD08.

Spontaneous Music Ensemble

1966/1967, Challenge (1966-7), Emanem 5029. Re-release of Eyemark EMPL 1002 plus extra tracks and reissue of Emanem 4053. Spontaneous Music Ensemble.
1966/1967, Withdrawal (1966-7), Emanem 4020. Spontaneous Music Ensemble.
1966/1967, Withdrawal (1966-7), Emanem 5040. Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Re-issue of Emanem 4020.
1968/71/73, Frameworks, Emanem 4134. Three versions of the SME.
1968/1969, Oliv & Familie (1968-9), Emanem 503. Spontaneous Music Ensemble.
1969, Oliv, Marmalade 608008/Polydor 2384009.
1970, For CND - For peace & you to share, A Records A001.
1970, For you to share, Emanem 4023.
1970. The source - from & towards, Tangent TNGS 107.
1971, 1.2. Albert Ayler, Affinity AFF 81.
1971, So, what do you think?, Tangent TGS 118.
1971, Live big band & quartet, Vinyl VS 0015/Konnex KCD 5045.
1971, SME & Bobby Bradford, Freedom FLP 40111.
1971, Bobby Bradford/SME vol. 1, Nessa 17.
1971, Bobby Bradford/SME vol. 2, Nessa 18.
1971, Birds of a feather, Byg 529.
1972, Not necessarily English music, EMF CD 036. One track by Spontaneous Music Orchestra on this compilation CD.
1972/3, Bare essentials 1972-3, Emanem 4218.
1973, How ya doin'?, Nondo 003.
1973, Face to face, Emanem 4003.
1973/74, Quintessence, Emanem 4217. Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Re-issue of Emanem 4015 and 4016 as double CD package.
1973, Quintessence 2, Emanem 4016. Two duo tracks of Stevens/Watts.
1973, Quintessence 1, Emanem 4015. Three trio tracks of Stevens/Watts/Carter.
1973/74, Dynamics of the impromptu, Entropy Stereo ESR004. Trio of Stevens/Bailey/Watts.
1973/74, Dynamics of the impromptu, FMR CD360-0913. Re-issue of Entropy Stereo CD.
1973/1975/1981, Search & reflect, Emanem 5209. Spontaneous Music Orchestra.
1974, Eighty-five minutes part 1, Emanem 3401. Reissued on CD as Quintessence 1.
1974, Eighty-five minutes part 2, Emanem 3402. Reissued on CD as Quintessence 2.
1974/75, Plus equals, Emanem 4062. Spontaneous Music Orchestra.
1975, SME+=SMO, A Records A003.
1981, Trio & triangle, Emanem 4150. SME & SMO.
1981, SME+SMO in concert, Sweet Folk & Country SFA 112.

Other recordings with John Stevens

1966, Springboard, Polydor Special 545.
1973, Life amid the artefacts, Emanem 5014. Otherways & Free Space.
1975, Away, Vertigo 6360.
1975, Chemistry, Vinyl VS 102/Konnex KCD 5045.
1975, Anni part 1/2, Vertigo 60591 140. 7".
1975/1976, John Stevens' Away, BGO Records BGOCD1198. 2CD set of John Stevens Away, Somewhere In between and Mazzin ennit.
1977, No fear, Spotlite SPJ 556/Hi 4 Head Records HFHCD001. John Stevens/Trevor Watts/Barry Guy.
1977, Mining the seam, Spotlite SPJ 556/Hi 4 Head Records HFHCD003. John Stevens/Trevor Watts/Barry Guy.
1978, Application, interaction, and..., Spotlite SPJ 513/Hi 4 Head Records HFHCD002. John
1977/1979/1981, A luta continua, Konnex KCD 5056.
1979, Endgame, JAPO 60028. Howard Riley/Barry Guy/John Stevens/Trevor Watts.
1979/1981, A luta continua, Konnex KCD 5056. John Stevens Dance Orchestra

London Jazz Composers' Orchestra

1972, Ode, Incus 6-7/Intakt 041.
1980/1991, Study II/Stringer, Intakt CD095. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.
1983, Stringer, FMP SAJ-41.
1987/1988, Zurich concerts, Intakt 005. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.
1989, Harmos, Intakt CD013. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.
1989, Double trouble, Intakt CD019. London Jazz Composers Orchestra.
1991, Theoria, Intakt CD 024.
1993, Portraits, Intakt CD 035; double CD package.
1995, Three pieces for orchestra, Intakt CD 045. With guests Marilyn Crispell and Maggie Nicols.
1995, Double trouble two, Intakt CD 053.
2008, Radio rondo/Schaffhausen concert, Intakt CD 158. LJCO/Irène Schweizer.
2008, Harmos, Intakt DVD 151. LJCO.

Other recordings

1970, Born free, Scout ScS 11. Member of Pierre Favre Group.
1972/1973, Sequences 72 & 73, Emanem 4018. Paul Rutherford/Iskra 1912.
1973, Love's dream, Emanem 4096. Bobby Bradford.
1973, Love's dream, Emanem 302. Bobby Bradford/Kent Carter/John Stevens.
1974, Saxophone special +, Emanem 4024. Steve Lacy.
1974, Saxophone special, Emanem 3310. Steve Lacy.
1976, Warm spirits cool spirits, Vinyl Records VS 101.
1977-82, Different times, different places, volume two, Ogun OGCD 045. Harry Miller.
1978, Frames: music for an imaginary film, Ogun Ogun CD 010/011. Keith Tippett's Ark.
1978, In conference, Ogun OG 523/Ogun HMCD. Harry Miller group.
1976, Cynosure, Ogun 526. The Trevor Watts String Ensemble.
1976, Cynosure, Hi 4 Head Records HFHCD018. The Trevor Watts String Ensemble. Re-issued of Ogun LP with additional music.
1979, Good old circus, FMP SAJ 33/Amiga 855869.
1981, Stella malu, ECM 1199. Duo with Katrina Krimsky, piano.
1989, Elton Dean's Unlimited Saxophone Company, Ogun CD 002.
1990, The Vortex tapes, SLAMCD 203. Elton Dean.
Passed normal vol 5, FOT Records PN5. Compilation.
1999, Reunion, Hi 4 Head Records HFHCD007. Trevor Watts/Peter Knight.
2001, Trevor Watts & The Celebration Band, Arc CD010.
2001, 6 dialogues, Emanem 4069. Watts/Weston duo.
2002, Freedom of the city 2002: small groups, Emanem 4210.
2004?, Ancestry, Entropy Stereo ESR 016. Trevor Watts/Jamie Harris.
2005, World sonic, Hi 4 Head Records HFHCD004. Solo.
2005, Live in Sao Paulo, Brasil, Hi 4 Head Records HFHCD005. Trevor Watts/Jamie Harris.
2005, Mutuality, FMR CD197-0206. Enjambre Acustico Urukungolo.
2008, The deep blue, Jazzwerkstatt 084. Solo with overdubs.
2010, Mad dogs, Not Two 902-2 (5CD set). Barry Guy New Orchestra small formations.
2011, 5 more dialogues, Emanem 5017. Watts/Weston duo.
2011, Dialogues in two places, Hi 4 Head Records HFHCD010D. Watts/Weston duo.
2011, Just not cricket! Three days of British improvised music in Berlin, NI-VU-NI-CONNU nvnc-lp001/004. Tom Arthurs/Steve Beresford/Tony Bevan/Matthew Bourne/Gail Brand/Lol Coxhill/Rhodri Davies/John Edwards/Shabaka Hutchings/Dominic Lash/Phil Minton/Eddie Prévost/Orphy Robinson/Mark Sanders/Alex Ward/Trevor Watts.
?, 11 songs, MET-X A-SHAMS 1060. Mishalle/Watts/Drame/Foliba/Marockin' Brass.
2012, Hear now: a film by Mark French, FMRDVD5. Trevor Watts/Veryon Weston/Mark Sanders/John Edwards.
2012, Mad dogs on the loose, Not Two 925-2 (4CD set). Barry Guy New Orchestra small formations.
2013, At ad libitum, fortune 0057/007. Trevor Watts/Veryon Weston.
2014, Veracity, FMR CD377-0714. Solo.
2015, Dialogues for Ornette!, FMR CD404-0915. Trevor Watts/Veryon Weston.
2017, Dialogues with strings, Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 09 2017. Trevor Watts/Veryan Weston/Alison Blunt/Hannah Marshall.

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