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Doc Watkins Headlines The Tobin, Looks Forward To Jazz, TX Reopening

Nathan Cone
Texas Public Radio

This week, pianist Brent “Doc” Watkins opens up residency at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, where he’ll be performing music from the classic score to “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” along with the members of his trio. The show will take place in the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater, with limited seating to create a safer environment during the coronavirus pandemic.

Watkins said he loves Christmas music, and is consistently amazed at the classic arrangements of Vince Guaraldi for the “Charlie Brown” special.

“I love Vince Guaraldi’s playing. I’m a huge fan of him as a pianist,” he said during a recent visit to TPR studios, where he also performed on a new Steinway piano. (You can hear him play using the embedded media player at the bottom of this post.)

“The group sounded great, the arrangements were fresh… and I think in a lot of ways, the fact that it was low budget, it was sort of thrown together, that album is by no means perfect,” he added. “But it became part of the cultural fabric of American Christmas time.”

When he’s not at the piano, Watkins runs Jazz, TX, the jazz club and high-end eatery at the Pearl complex that’s been shuttered to the public since March. Watkins saw it as an opportunity to reach a new audience, and created “The Doc Watkins Show,” an online musical broadcast from the club at least twice a week to a worldwide audience. Now, he’s looking to 2021 with hope, and taking the quiet moments at the club to make some improvements.

“No better time than a pandemic to bring in a construction crew!” he joked.

When audiences return in 2021, they’ll be greeted by improved lighting, a new floor, and an updated staging area.

“We don’t have a grand opening date,” Watkins said, “but we know it’s going to be in the next two months. And whether that’s limited seating capacity, we’re going to open up with our full bar, our full kitchen, probably smaller groups… but we’re right now gearing up to get back open.”

In the player below, preview a special holiday program with Doc Watkins, which will be broadcast on TPR, Saturday, December 19 at 7 p.m.