Tony Williams

Tony Williams

born on 12/12/1945 in Chicago, IL, United States

died on 23/2/1997 in Daly City, CA, United States

Alias Roc Raida

Tony Williams (drummer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Tony Williams (drummer)

Anthony Tillmon "Tony" Williams (December 12, 1945  February 23, 1997) was an American jazz drummer.

Widely regarded as one of the most important and influential jazz drummers to come to prominence in the 1960s, Williams first gained fame in the band of trumpeter Miles Davis and was a pioneer of jazz fusion.[1] He is also considered the inventor of the blast beat,[2] a technique that would become an important element of punk rock and heavy metal drumming.


Williams was born in Chicago and grew up in Boston. He was of African, Portuguese, and Chinese descent.[3] He began studies 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 found considerable fame with Miles Davis, joining a group that 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."[4] His inventive playing helped redefine the role of jazz rhythm section through the use of polyrhythms and metric modulation (transitioning between mathematically related tempos and/or time signatures).

Williams was an integral participant in the early- to mid-1960s avant-garde movement, playing on such classics as Jackie McLean's One Step Beyond, Grachan Moncur III's Evolution and Some Other Stuff, Sam Rivers's Fuchsia Swing Song, Andrew Hill's Point of Departure, and Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch. His first album as a leader, 1964's Life Time, was also in the avant-garde vein. Many of these progressive albums are considered among the greatest jazz recordings of all time.

In 1969, he formed a trio, The Tony Williams Lifetime, with John McLaughlin on guitar, and Larry Young on organ. Lifetime was a pioneering band of the fusion movement, a combination of rock, R&B, and jazz. Their first album, Emergency!, was largely rejected by the jazz community at the time of its release. Today, Emergency! is considered by many to be a fusion classic. His second fusion recording, also on Polydor Records, was Turn It Over, which was more of a statement of the current events of the period and was even more progressive and louder, with the addition of rock bassist and singer Jack Bruce.

After McLaughlin and Bruce's departure, and several more albums, 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 of sorts with his old Davis band compatriots: pianist/keyboardist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and tenor 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. and was highly instrumental in increasing the popularity of acoustic jazz. The group went on to tour and record for several years, releasing a series of live albums under the name "V.S.O.P." or "The V.S.O.P. 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 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?"

With the group Fuse One, Williams released two albums in 1980 and 1982.[5] In 1985, he recorded an album for Blue Note Records entitled 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 (the LennonMcCartney song "Blackbird", the standard "Poinciana", and the Freddie Hubbard blues "Birdlike" being the exceptions) and toured and recorded throughout the remainder of the 1980s and into the early 1990s. This rhythm section also recorded as a trio.

Williams also played drums for the band Public Image Limited, fronted by former Sex Pistols singer John Lydon, on their 1986 release album/cassette/compact disc (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, who had played in Cream with Bruce.

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 Laswell.


Williams played traditional grip as well as other American and European grips.


As leader

  • 1964: Life Time (Blue Note)
  • 1965: Spring (Blue Note)
  • 1969: Emergency! (Polydor)
  • 1970: Turn It Over (Verve)
  • 1971: Ego (Polydor)
  • 1972: The Old Bum's Rush (Polydor)
  • 1975: Believe It (Columbia)
  • 1975, 1976 The Collection (Columbia)
  • 1976: Million Dollar Legs (Columbia)
  • 1979: The Joy of Flying (Columbia)
  • 1980: Play or Die (P.S. Productions)  with Tom Grant and Patrick O'Hearn[6]
  • 1982: Third Plane (Carrere)  with Ron Carter and Herbie Hancock
  • 1985: Foreign Intrigue (Blue Note)
  • 1986: Civilization (Blue Note)
  • 1986, 1988: Angel Street (Blue Note)
  • 1989: Native Heart (Blue Note)
  • 1991: The Story of Neptune (Blue Note)
  • 1992: Tokyo Live (Blue Note)
  • 1993: Unmasked (Atlantic)
  • 1996: Wilderness (Ark 21)
  • 1996: Young at Heart (Columbia)

As sideman

With Geri Allen

  • Twenty One (1994)

With Arcana

  • The Last Wave (1995)
  • Arc of the Testimony (1997)

With Chet Baker

  • You Can't Go Home Again (1972)
  • The Best Thing for You (1977)
  • Chet Baker / Wolfgang Lackerschmid (1979)

With George Cables

  • Phantom of the City (1985)

With Ron Carter

  • Third Plane (1978)
  • Etudes (1982)

With Stanley Clarke

  • Stanley Clarke (1974)

With Miles Davis

  • Seven Steps to Heaven (1963)
  • Miles Davis in Europe (1963)
  • Four & More (1964)
  • My Funny Valentine (1964)
  • Miles in Tokyo (1964)
  • Miles in Berlin (1964)
  • E.S.P. (1965)
  • The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel (1965)
  • Miles Smiles (1966)
  • Directions (1967, 1968)
  • Sorcerer (1967)
  • Nefertiti (1967)
  • Water Babies (1967, 1968)
  • Circle in the Round (1967, 1968)
  • Miles in the Sky (1968)
  • The Complete Miles DavisGil Evans Studio Recordings  four takes of "Falling Water" (1968)
  • Filles de Kilimanjaro (1968)
  • In a Silent Way (1969)
  • Live in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 (2012)

With Eric Dolphy

  • Out to Lunch (1964)

With Kenny Dorham

  • Una Mas (1963)

With Gil Evans

  • The Gil Evans Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix  track 8, "Little Wing" (1975)

With Tommy Flanagan

  • The Trio (1983)

With Hal Galper

  • Now Hear This (1977)

With Stan Getz

  • Captain Marvel (1972)

With Dexter Gordon

  • Round Midnight (1986)

With Herbie Hancock

  • My Point of View (1963)
  • Empyrean Isles (1964)
  • Maiden Voyage (1965)
  • V.S.O.P. (1976)
  • V.S.O.P.: The Quintet (1977)
  • V.S.O.P.: Tempest in the Colosseum (1977)
  • Herbie Hancock Trio (1977)
  • Sunlight (1978)
  • V.S.O.P.: Live Under the Sky (1979)
  • Herbie Hancock Trio (1982)
  • Mr. Hands (1982)
  • Quartet (1982)
  • Town Hall Concert (1985)
  • Future2Future

With Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Wallace Roney

  • A Tribute to Miles (1992)

With Jonas Hellborg and the Soldier String Quartet

  • The Word (1991)

With Joe Henderson

  • Relaxin' at Camarillo (1979)

With Andrew Hill

  • Point of Departure (1964)

With Terumasa Hino

  • May Dance (1977)

With Allan Holdsworth

  • Atavachron  track 5 (1986)

With Charles Lloyd

  • "Of Course! Of Course!" (1965)

With Michael Mantler

  • Movies (1977)

With Ray Manzarek

  • The Golden Scarab (1973)

With Branford Marsalis

  • Renaissance (1987)

With Wynton Marsalis

  • Wynton Marsalis (1981)

With John McLaughlin

  • Johnny McLaughlin: Electric Guitarist (1978)

With Jackie McLean

  • Vertigo (1963)
  • One Step Beyond (1963)
  • New Wine In Old Bottles (1978)

With Marcus Miller

  • The Sun Don't Lie (199092)

With Mulgrew Miller

  • The Countdown (1988)

With Grachan Moncur III

  • Evolution (Blue Note, 1963)
  • Some Other Stuff (Blue Note, 1964)

With Jaco Pastorius and John McLaughlin

  • Trio of Doom (1979)

With Michel Petrucciani

  • Marvellous (1994)

With Public Image Limited

  • Album (1985)

With Don Pullen

  • New Beginnings (Blue Note, 1988)

With Sam Rivers

  • Fuchsia Swing Song (Blue Note, 1964)

With Sonny Rollins

  • Easy Living (1977)
  • Don't Stop the Carnival (1978)
  • No Problem (1981)

With Wallace Roney

  • Verses (1987)

With Travis Shook

  • Travis Shook (1993)

With Wayne Shorter

  • The Soothsayer (1965)

With McCoy Tyner

  • Supertrios (1977)
  • Counterpoints (1978)

With Sadao Watanabe

  • I'm Old Fashioned (1976)

With Weather Report

  • Mr. Gone (1978)


  1. Yanow, Scott. [Tony Williams (drummer) at All Music Guide Allmusic website]. Retrieved on 2011-10-31.
  2. [Tony Williams (drummer) at All Music Guide Review of The Trio of Doom Live] by Thom Jurek, Allmusic
  3. Tony Williams Interview 1995. Retrieved on 27 March 2012.
  4. Miles The Autobiography, Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe, Picador, 1989, p. 254.
  5. [Tony Williams (drummer) at All Music Guide Allmusic Fuse One Discography]. Retrieved on 2011-10-31.
  6. Tony Williams* - Play or Die (Vinyl, LP, Album) at Discogs. Retrieved on 2011-10-31.
This page was last modified 18.02.2014 21:09:17

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