TONY WILLIAMS Biography - Musicians


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Name: Anthony Tillmon "Tony" Williams                                                   
Born: 12 december 1945                                                                 
Died: 23 February 1997                                                                 
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 '60s, Williams first gained fame in the band of               
trumpeter Miles Davis, and was a pioneer of jazz fusion.                               
Born in Chicago and growing up in Boston, Williams 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 at 16.           
At 17 Williams found considerable fame with Miles Davis, joining a group that           
was later dubbed Davis's "Second Great Quintet." His first album as a leader,           
1964's Life Time (not to be confused with the name of his band "Lifetime," which       
he formed several years later) was recorded during his tenure with Davis.               
Williams was a vital element of the group, called by Davis in his autobiography         
"the center that the group's sound revolved around".("Miles The Autobigraphy",         
Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe, Picador 1989, p.254). 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). But perhaps his overarching achievement was in demonstrating,         
through his playing, that the drummer need not be relegated to timekeeping and         
accompaniment in a jazz ensemble, rather the drummer may be free to contribute         
to the performance as an equal partner in the improvisation.                           
In 1969, he formed a trio, "The Tony Williams Lifetime," with John McLaughlin on       
guitar, and Larry Young on organ. Jack Bruce on bass was added later. It 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. However, Miles Davis was so impressed with the album and           
its highly experimental direction that he asked to head the group as his own;           
Williams declined. Nowadays, Emergency! is considered by many                           
to be a fusion classic.                                                                 
After McLaughlin'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 respectively.