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Tony Williams (drummer)
|Birth name||Anthony Tillmon Williams|
|Born||(1945-12-12)December 12, 1945
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Origin||Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.|
|Died||February 23, 1997(1997-02-23) (aged 51)
Daly City, California, U.S.
Life and career
Williams was born in Chicago and grew up in Boston. He was of African, Portuguese, and Chinese descent. He studied with drummer Alan Dawson at an early age, and began playing professionally at the age of 13 with saxophonist Sam Rivers. Saxophonist Jackie McLean hired Williams when he was 16.
At 17 Williams gained attention by joining Miles Davis in what was later dubbed Davis's Second Great Quintet. Williams was a vital element of the group, called by Davis in his autobiography "the center that the group's sound revolved around." His playing helped redefine the role of the jazz rhythm section through the use of polyrhythms and metric modulation. Meanwhile, he recorded his first two albums as leader for Blue Note label, Life Time (1964) and Spring (1965). He also recorded as a sideman for the label including, in 1964, Out to Lunch! with Eric Dolphy and Point of Departure with Andrew Hill.
Their first album was Emergency!. After the departures of McLaughlin and bassist Jack Bruce, who had joined the group for its second album, and several more releases, Lifetime disbanded. In 1975, Williams put together a band he called "The New Tony Williams Lifetime", featuring bassist Tony Newton, pianist Alan Pasqua, and English guitarist Allan Holdsworth, which recorded two albums for Columbia Records, Believe It and Million Dollar Legs.
In mid-1976, Williams was a part of a reunion with his colleagues from the Miles Davis band: keyboardist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Davis was in the midst of a six-year hiatus and was "replaced" by Freddie Hubbard. The record was later released as V.S.O.P. The group toured and for several years and a series of live albums were released under the name "V.S.O.P." or "V.S.O.P.: The Quintet".
In 1979, Williams, McLaughlin and bassist Jaco Pastorius united for a one-time performance at the Havana Jazz Festival. This trio came to be known as the Trio of Doom, and a recording of their performance (along with some studio tracks recorded in New York shortly thereafter) was released in 2007. It opens with a powerful drum improvisation by Williams, followed by McLaughlin's "Dark Prince" and Pastorius' "Continuum", Williams' original composition "Para Oriente" and McLaughlin's "Are You the One?" Williams and Pastorius had also played together on the Herbie Hancock track "Good Question" from his 1978 album Sunlight. With the group Fuse One, Williams released two albums in 1980 and 1982.
In 1985, he returned to Blue Note and the result was a series of recordings for the label beginning with Foreign Intrigue, which featured the playing of pianist Mulgrew Miller and trumpeter Wallace Roney. Later that year he formed a quintet with Miller, Roney, saxophonist Bill Pierce, and bassist Charnett Moffett (later Ira Coleman). This band played Williams' compositions almost exclusively. Williams also played drums for the band Public Image Limited, fronted by John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols), on their release Album/Cassette/Compact Disc (1986, the album title varied depending on the format). He played on the songs "FFF", "Rise" (a modest hit), and "Home". Bass guitarist Bill Laswell co-wrote those three songs with Lydon. The other drummer on that album was Ginger Baker.
Williams lived and taught in the San Francisco Bay Area until his death from a heart attack following routine gall bladder surgery. One of his final recordings was The Last Wave by the trio known as Arcana, a release organized by Bill Laswell.
- 1964: Life Time (Blue Note)
- 1966: Spring (Blue Note) – recorded in 1965
- 1969: Emergency! (Verve)
- 1970: Turn It Over (Verve)
- 1971: Ego (Polydor)
- 1972: The Old Bum's Rush (Polydor)
- 1975: Believe It (Columbia)
- 1976: Million Dollar Legs (Columbia) – also released as The Collection (Columbia) with Believe It as 2 in 1 CD in 1992
- 1979: The Joy of Flying (Columbia)
- 1980: Play or Die (P.S. Productions) – with Tom Grant and Patrick O'Hearn
- 1985: Foreign Intrigue (Blue Note)
- 1986: Civilization (Blue Note)
- 1988: Angel Street (Blue Note)
- 1989: Native Heart (Blue Note)
- 1992: The Story of Neptune (Blue Note) – recorded in 1991
- 1993: Tokyo Live (Blue Note) – recorded in 1992. released as 2 CD.
- 1996: Wilderness (Ark 21) – recorded in 1995
- 1996: Young at Heart (Columbia)
- 2017: Live at The Village Gate (Hi Hat) – recorded in 1976. posthumous release.
- 2018: Live Tokyo 1978 (Hi Hat) – recorded in 1978. posthumous release.
With The Great Jazz Trio
- I'm Old Fashioned (East Wind, 1976) with Sadao Watanabe
- Love for Sale (East Wind, 1976)
- The Great Jazz Trio at the Village Vanguard (East Wind, 1977)
- The Great Jazz Trio at the Village Vanguard Vol. 2 (East Wind, 1977)
- Kindness Joy Love & Happiness (East Wind, 1977)
- Bird of Paradise (Flying Disk, 1977) with Sadao Watanabe
- Milestones (East Wind, 1978)
- New Wine in Old Bottles (East Wind, 1978) with Jackie McLean
- Direct from L.A. (East Wind, 1978)
- Carnaval (Galaxy, 1978) with Sadao Watanabe
- The Great Tokyo Meeting (East Wind, 1978)
- The Great Jazz Trio at the Village Vanguard Again (East Wind, 2000) – recorded 1977
With Trio of Doom
- The Last Wave (DIW, 1995)
- Arc of the Testimony (Axiom/Island, 1997) – with Pharoah Sanders. posthumous release.
With Geri Allen
- Twenty One (Blue Note, 1994)
With Chet Baker
- You Can't Go Home Again (Horizon, 1977)
- The Best Thing for You (A&M, 1977 )
- Chet Baker / Wolfgang Lackerschmid (Sandra Music Productions, 1979) with Wolfgang Lackerschmid
With George Cables
- Phantom of the City (Contemporary, 1985)
With Ron Carter
- Third Plane (Milestone, 1978)
- 1 + 3 (JVC, 1978)
- Carnaval (Galaxy, 1978)
- Parade (Milestone, 1979)
- Etudes (Elektra/Musician, 1982)
With Stanley Clarke
- Stanley Clarke (Nemperor, 1974)
With Miles Davis
- Seven Steps to Heaven (Columbia, 1963)
- Miles Davis in Europe (Columbia, 1963)
- Four & More (Columbia, 1964)
- My Funny Valentine (Columbia, 1964)
- Miles in Tokyo (CBS/Sony, 1964 )
- Miles in Berlin (CBS, 1964)
- E.S.P. (Columbia, 1965)
- The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965 (Columbia Legacy, 1965 )
- Miles Smiles (Columbia, 1966)
- Directions (Columbia, 1967-68 )
- Sorcerer (Columbia, 1967)
- Nefertiti (Columbia, 1967)
- Water Babies (Columbia, 1967-68 )
- Circle in the Round (Columbia, 1967-68 )
- Miles in the Sky (Columbia, 1968)
- Miles Davis & Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings – four takes of "Falling Water" (Columbia Legacy, 1968 )
- Filles de Kilimanjaro (Columbia, 1968)
- In a Silent Way (Columbia, 1969)
- Live in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 (Columbia Legacy, 2012)
- Miles Davis at Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Columbia Legacy, 2015)
With Eric Dolphy
- Out to Lunch! (Blue Note, 1964)
With Kenny Dorham
- Una Mas (Blue Note, 1963)
With Gil Evans
- There Comes a Time (RCA, 1975)
With Tommy Flanagan
With Hal Galper
- Now Hear This (Enja, 1977)
With Stan Getz
- Captain Marvel (Columbia, 1972)
With Dexter Gordon
With Herbie Hancock
- My Point of View (Blue Note, 1963)
- Empyrean Isles (Blue Note, 1964)
- Maiden Voyage (Blue Note, 1965)
- V.S.O.P. (Columbia, 1976)
- V.S.O.P.: The Quintet (Columbia, 1977)
- V.S.O.P.: Tempest in the Colosseum (Columbia, 1977)
- Herbie Hancock Trio (CBS/Sony, 1977)
- Sunlight (Columbia, 1978)
- V.S.O.P.: Live Under the Sky (Columbia, 1979)
- Mr. Hands (Columbia, 1980)
- Herbie Hancock Trio (Columbia, 1982)
- Quartet (CBS/Sony, 1982)
- Town Hall Concert (Blue Note, 1985)
- Future2Future (Transparent Music, 2001)
- A Tribute to Miles (Qwest/Reprise, 1992)
- The Word (1991)
With Joe Henderson
- Relaxin' at Camarillo (Contemporary, 1979)
With Andrew Hill
- Point of Departure (Blue Note, 1964)
With Terumasa Hino
- May Dance (Flying Disk, 1977)
With Allan Holdsworth
- Atavachron – Looking Glass (Enigma, 1986)
With Charles Lloyd
- Of Course, Of Course (Columbia, 1965)
With Michael Mantler
- Movies (1977)
With Ray Manzarek
- The Golden Scarab (Mercury, 1973)
With Branford Marsalis
- Renaissance (Columbia, 1987)
With Wynton Marsalis
- Wynton Marsalis (Columbia, 1981)
With John McLaughlin
- Electric Guitarist (Columbia, 1978)
With Jackie McLean
With Marcus Miller
- The Sun Don't Lie (1990–92)
With Mulgrew Miller
- The Countdown (Landmark, 1988)
With Grachan Moncur III
With Yoko Ono
- Starpeace (PolyGram, 1985)
With Michel Petrucciani
- Marvellous (Dreyfus, 1994)
With Pop Workshop
- Song For The Pterodactyl (1974)
With Public Image Limited
- Album (Virgin, 1985)
With Don Pullen
- New Beginnings (Blue Note, 1988)
With Sam Rivers
- Fuchsia Swing Song (Blue Note, 1964)
With Sonny Rollins
- Easy Living (Milestone, 1977)
- Don't Stop the Carnival (Milestone, 1978)
- No Problem (Milestone, 1981)
With Wallace Roney
- Verses (Muse, 1987)
With Carlos Santana
With Travis Shook
- Travis Shook (1993)
With Wayne Shorter
- The Soothsayer (Blue Note, 1965)
With McCoy Tyner
With Weather Report
- Mr. Gone (Columbia, 1978)
- Colin_Larkin (ed.) (1992) The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 1st ed., pg. 2699; ISBN 1-882267-04-4 .
- Thom Holmes (2006) American Popular Music: Jazz, pg. 216; ISBN 0-8160-6928-X
- Tony Williams at AllMusic Tony Williams discography at Discogs Tony Williams discography at MusicBrainz
- Yanow, Scott. "Profile". Allmusic.com. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
- "Modern Drummer's Readers Poll Archive, 1979–2014". Modern Drummer. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
- "Tony Williams Interview 1995". Retrieved March 27, 2012.
- Don, Snowden (August 17, 1989). "Jazz Drummer Tony Williams: A Lifetime of Risky Riffs". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
- Miles The Autobiography, Picador, 1989, p. 254.
- "Allmusic Fuse One Discography". Allmusic.com. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
- OLIVER, MYRNA (February 26, 1997). "Tony Williams; Innovative Jazz Drummer, Fusion Pioneer". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved September 26, 2017.
- Watrous, Peter (February 26, 1997). "Tony Williams, 51, Drummer Renowned as a Jazz Innovator". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 26, 2017.
- "Arcana: The Last Wave – JazzTimes". JazzTimes. Retrieved September 26, 2017.
- "Tony Williams* – Play or Die (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs.com. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
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