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Tony Williams

Tony Williams is the name of more than one artist.
1. American jazz drummer.
2. American singer who was the lead vocalist of the Platters from 1953 to 1960.
3. British video game music composer

1) Tony Williams (December 12, 1945 – February 23, 1997) was an American jazz drummer.

Born in Chicago and growing up in Boston, Williams began studies with master drummer Alan Dawson at an early age and began playing professionally at the age of 13 with saxophonist Sam Rivers. Jackie McLean hired Williams at 16. Then 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 of the group's sound". 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; that 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). It was a pioneering band of the fusion movement, a combination of rock, R&B, and jazz. Their first album, Emergency!, is considered a classic.

Unfortunately, the band was not a commercial success, and after McLaughlin's departure, and several more albums, the group 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 Miles Davis band compatriots, pianist/keyboardist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Miles backed out of the reunion at the last minute and was replaced by Freddie Hubbard. The record was later released as V.S.O.P. (which stood for a "Very Special OneTime Performance") and was highly instrumental in bringing back acoustical jazz.

In 1985, Williams 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 and Roney, which also featured tenor and soprano saxophonist Bill Pierce and bassist Charnett Moffett (later Ira Coleman). This band played Williams' compositions almost exclusively (the Lennon/McCartney song "Blackbird", the standard "Poinciana", and the Freddie Hubbard blues "Birdlike" being the exceptions) and toured and recorded throughout the remainder of the '80s, into the early '90s. This rhythm section also recorded as a trio. In the early '90s Williams also recorded the terrific album with bass prodigy Jonas Hellborg entitiled "The Word" for Bill Laswell's label.

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 Arcana, a release organized by prolific bass guitarist Bill Laswell. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.