We set out to New Orleans to talk to saxophone player Jeff Watkins, who after years of touring with greats like James Brown and Joss Stone, have pulled together a supergroup of musicians called “The Usual Suspects,” which formed at the iconic Maple Leaf venue.
BIO: Jeff Watkins grew up in rural Missouri, and inspired by a chance encounter with yakety yak saxman Boots Randolph, he took up the saxophone at a young age. He spent 3 years in the jazz program at the University of Missouri, before studying jazz and audio engineering at the University of Miami and jamming with countless groups in the hot tropical nightclubs of South Florida. In 1989 Jeff became part of the funk-rock band Groove Thangs, he recorded and helped write, produce and arrange several releases by the band, including Uppression, which won Jam Magazine’s Jammy Award for Best Independent Release of 1991. In 1994, he was hired by the great James Brown and shared career highlights like JB’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, a Live At The Apollo album, the top-selling “Live At The House Of Blues” DVD and festival appearances from Montreaux to Woodstock to Bonaroo. He’s played all over the world, from South America to Europe to Asia and has been seen on Good Morning America, David Letterman and even Jerry Springer. Jeff became an integral part of the show for James Brown, who introduced Jeff as “the ninth wonder of the world”. He stayed with James until JB’s death in 2006. Jeff also works as an audio consultant, engineer, session player and producer, working with studios like Funkadero in Florida and artists like Rhode Island’s Herbal Nation, New Orleans’ Brotherhood of Groove, Dutch funk band OctavePussy, as well as currently working and performing with award winning Joss Stone.