Drummers / Percussionists
Drummer Cafe 20th Anniversary
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BIOGRAPHY

Tony Williams

Tony Williams, born Anthony Tillmon Williams on December 12, 1945, was an American jazz drummer, composer, producer and bandleader, best known as a pioneer of jazz fusion and widely regarded as one of the most important and influential jazz drummers to come to prominence in the 1960s.

As a young teenager, Tony Williams studied drums with legendary jazz drummer and educator, Alan Dawson. By the time Williams was sixteen he was working with saxophonist Sam Rivers. Tony became a household name by the time he was seventeen — jazz trumpeter, Miles Davis, hired Tony to play drums in his ensemble — one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, Miles Davis quintets of all time.

Williams was known for his impeccable timekeeping, use of polyrhythms and metric modulation, percussive accentuation, and the precise execution of his signature Single-Stroke Roll. It was his inventive approach to the drums that truly helped redefine the role of the drummer in the modern jazz rhythm section. What it came to technique, Tony employed traditional grip primarily when playing straight-head jazz, and matched grip for his more powerful drumming style — like in fusion.

Williams performed and recorded with the likes of Geri Allen, Arcana, Chet Baker, George Cables, Ron Carter, Stanley Clarke, Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy, Kenny Dorham, Gil Evans, Tommy Flanagan, Hal Galper, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock, Jonas Hellborg, Joe Henderson, Andrew Hill, Terumasa Hino, Allan Holdsworth, Hank Jones, Charles Lloyd, Michael Mantler, Ray Manzarek, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, John McLaughlin, Jackie McLean, Marcus Miller, Mulgrew Miller, Grachan Moncur III, Jaco Pastorious, Michel Petrucciani, Pop Workshop, Public Image Limited, Don Pullen, Sam Rivers, Sonny Rollins, Wallace Roney, Travis Shook, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, and Weather Report.

Tony Williams died of a heart attack (following routine gall bladder surgery) in San Francisco on February 23, 1997; he was 51.

I really think that the drums are as poetic and romantic as any instrument.


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