28 March 2013. Derek Watkins
This is going to be a short entry, as the subject matter demands to be aired as a solo item. Last Friday, the 22nd, the world of music withstood a massive blow when Derek Watkins, legendary session trumpet star, died after a two year struggle with cancer.
By now, there have been many tributes to Derek in the national press, and Facebook virtually got jammed to a standstill as his friends and colleagues expressed their grief at our shared loss.
I only knew Derek as an occasional colleague, and already many who were closer to him, and therefore way better qualified than I have put pen to paper and have given beautiful portraits of his life and work.
However, this is primarily a music blog, and when music gets a seismic shove on this level, the only fitting thing to do is to pay tribute.
I worked in the reed sections on a few gigs that Derek did, depped in some of the shows he was on, and played on, I think, three out of the million recordings he made. When Derek was in the room, the music got all special. As the lead trumpet, his was the job to play the top note in every passage. He did this with a unique gift, which was to simultaneously sound exactly like the composer intended whilst sounding like no-one but Derek. And then turn whatever it was into one of the best things you’ve ever heard.
With such a flawless command of his instrument, one of the big thrills of hearing him play was knowing that even when he had stretched the trumpetic envelope further than you could imagine, he still had power in reserve.
If I had to sim up his playing in one word, it would be just that- power. Whenever there was a big gala concert, a hugely important recording session or a massive prestige gig, and the powers That be had had the foresight to get Derek along, the resultant music was riven right through with a bright burning authority which at once amazed, entertained and rendered awestruck.
In short, Derek’s vast presence loomed over the entire profession in a way we are unlikely to see again. If I liken the Music business to a picture of the London Skyline, it is as if St Paul’s has somehow been removed, leaving the rest of us confused and bereft.
Next time you’re having a drink, raise a glass to Derek and the family he leaves behind.