Tony Williams

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Tony Williams 1986

Tony Williams , actually: Anthony Tillmon Williams (born December 12, 1945 in Chicago , Illinois , USA ; † February 23, 1997 in Daly City , California , USA) was an American jazz drummer .

In addition to Billy Cobham , he developed the connection between jazz and rock rhythms. He was influenced by Max Roach , Philly Joe Jones , Roy Haynes , Elvin Jones , but also by the drummer Sunny Murray .


Tony Williams' career began early at the age of 16 in the band of saxophonist Jackie McLean , who brought him to New York and with whom he made his first recording. At the age of 17 he was brought into Miles Davis' band, which later became known as the famous second Miles Davis Quintet . His young age created amusing scenes as Tony Williams was still under 21. He was therefore actually not allowed into the clubs where Miles Davis played. Therefore, he often had to enter clubs through the back entrance. He also grew a mustache to look older.

Williams' contribution to the Miles Davis Quintet marked a milestone in the development of jazz drums. Here he developed the fast playing style of bop or bebop . Williams controlled the rhythmic events by accelerating, slowing down or sometimes stopping the pace , thereby creatively challenging his teammates. This opened up spaces that would have remained closed if a rigid beat had been kept throughout. He was a master of the game on the ride cymbal and often did without the hitherto usual use of the hi-hat , which he used more for tonal design than to emphasize the backbeat . But he was also the first to occasionally use the hi-hat for all beats, often at breathtaking speeds. In doing so, he followed concepts that had already emerged since the rise of free jazz . With his delicate and lively game, Williams became the opposite of his colleague in the John Coltrane Quartet, Elvin Jones , who provided his boss with drive and energy with more power and powerful play .

In 1969 he left Miles Davis and was succeeded by Jack DeJohnette .

Together with the guitarist John McLaughlin and the organist Larry Young , he founded the group The Tony Williams Lifetime in the early 1970s , which had a significant influence on the connection between jazz and rock elements and thus shaped the style of the development of jazz rock and the Fusion music was. This his own band, Tony Williams Lifetime, was one of the most important bands in jazz-rock, but it did not receive the attention it deserved from the public and experts.

Together with the other sidemen of the Miles Davis Quintet , Herbie Hancock , Ron Carter and Wayne Shorter , he appeared with Freddie Hubbard as VSOP from 1976 , from 1983 Hubbard and Shorter were replaced by the shooting stars and brothers Wynton and Branford Marsalis , whereupon the The group renamed itself VSOPII .

In the 1980s Williams studied composition and performed with his own bands, including Wallace Roney and Mulgrew Miller . Sister Cheryl , a composition by Tony Williams that has meanwhile become a standard, also comes from this period . In 1990 he commissioned a highly acclaimed piece for string quartet, piano, percussion and cymbals, which was performed in San Francisco . In 1995 he received a Grammy for best jazz recording of the year for A Tribute to Miles . With Bill Laswell and Derek Bailey he also played in the fusion project Arcana .

Tony Williams died in 1997 of heart failure during routine gallbladder surgery. His CD, released shortly after his death, was called Young at Heart , named after the standard of the same name that Williams recorded in the trio for this production. In 2016 Rolling Stone listed him as 19th of the 100 best drummers of all time .

Selected discography

Tony Williams

  • 1964: Life Time
  • 1965: Spring
  • 1969: Emergency!
  • 1970: Turn It Over
  • 1971: ego
  • 1972: The Old Bum's Rush
  • 1975: Believe It
  • 1976: Million Dollar Legs
  • 1978: The Joy of Flying
  • 1980: Play or Die
  • 1982: Third Plane
  • 1985: Foreign Intrigue
  • 1986: Civilization
  • 1988: Angel Street
  • 1989: Native Heart
  • 1991: The Story of Neptune
  • 1992: Live in Tokyo
  • 1996: Wilderness
  • 1998: Young At Heart

Kenny Dorham

  • Una Mas

Ron Carter

  • Third plane

Miles Davis

Gil Evans

Herbie Hancock

  • Empyrean Isles
  • Maiden Voyage
  • VSOP
  • Sunlight

Jonas Hellborg

  • The Word

Andrew Hill

Wayne Shorter

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time. Rolling Stone , March 31, 2016, accessed August 6, 2017 .