A Rockapaedia Obituary
Bands: Miles Davis's, The Tony Williams Lifetime, Public Image Ltd,
Tony Williams died aged fifty-one of heart attack on 23rd February 1997 in Daly City, California, U.S.A..
Tony Williams was born Anthony Tillman Williams in Chicago on 12th December 1945 and grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. and was of mixed African, Portuguese, and Chinese descent. He studied with drummer Alan Dawson at an early age, and began playing professionally at the age of thirteen with saxophonist Sam Rivers.
At seventeen Tony Williams gained attention by joining Miles Davis in what was later dubbed Davis's Second Great Quintet. Tony 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' in 1964 and 'Spring' in 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.
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, Rythm&Blues, and jazz.
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, Tony 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, Tony 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 for several years and a series of live albums were released.
In 1979, Tony 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 Tony. Tony Williams and Jaco Pastorius had also played together on the Herbie Hancock track "Good Question" from his 1978 album Sunlight. With the group 'Fuse One', Tony 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. This band played Tony Williams' compositions almost exclusively. Tony Williams also played drums for the band Public Image Limited, fronted by John Lydon, on an album. One of his final recordings was 'The Last Wave' by the jazz-rock trio called Arcana.
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music: 'Proto Cosmos' by The Tony Williams Lifetime