Philadelphia-based saxophonist, composer and educator Chris Oatts has been hailed as “a force to be reckoned with,” by All About Jazz. Chris has performed, recorded or toured with the likes of Seal, the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, Chelsea Reed and the Fair Weather Five, The Philly POPS, Terell Stafford, Wycliffe Gordon and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.
Born into a musical family, Oatts is the nephew of alto saxophone icon Dick Oatts with whom he studied at Temple University in Philadelphia. His father played trumpet with Stan Kenton, Machito and the jazz rock group Chase while his two triplet brothers and several other family members are also musicians. Oatts’ grandfather, Jack, is credited by the Jazz Educators of Iowa Hall of Fame for starting the first high school jazz band in the state of Iowa. Oatts performs on his grandfather’s Selmer Mark VI alto saxophone to this day.
In 2017, Oatts released his debut album as a leader entitled First Quintet, a record comprised of original compositions featuring some of Philadelphia’s finest musicians. Oatts is also the founder of South Philly Big Band (SPBB), a group steeped in the tradition of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis that commissions new works from Philadelphia composers. SPBB has performed shows with Walt Weiskopf, Ignacio Berroa and Gary Smulyan and, in December 2017, released a Christmas EP of new imaginations of Christmas classics entitled SPBBXMAS.
Oatts is an active educator in the Philadelphia area and is on faculty at Temple University and the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He teaches music composition, production, theory, improvisation and private saxophone instruction, as well as working with large and small ensembles.