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Williams, Tony [Anthony]

(b Chicago, 12 Dec 1945; d Daly City, CA, 23 Feb 1997). American jazz drummer. He studied privately with Alan Dawson and, while still a child, played with Art Blakey and Max Roach; other influences were Philly Joe Jones, Jimmy Cobb and Louis Hayes. In 1959 Williams began an important association with Sam Rivers, who became his informal mentor. In late 1962 he accompanied Jackie McLean, who invited him to join his group in New York. Here he was noticed by Miles Davis and in May 1963 began to play in Davis’s quintet; Williams’s performance is most notable on the album Miles Smiles (1966, Col.). Williams stayed with Davis until mid–1969, earning an international reputation for the brilliance of his playing and for his interaction with other musicians. He frequently performed and recorded with others, including Eric Dolphy, Herbie Hancock (notably the album Maiden Voyage, 1965, BN) and Rivers. As Davis’s quintet moved towards a fusion of jazz with rock, soul and other elements, Williams became interested in forming a similar group of his own; the trio Lifetime, with the organist Larry Young and John McLaughlin, issued its first recordings in 1969, but the group was not commercially successful, and its personnel changed over the next three years. In 1972 he joined Stan Getz, before a period of inactivity as a performer (1973–5). At various times in the late 1970s and early 80s Williams toured and recorded with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and other former associates under the name V.S.O.P., and from 1986 to 1993 he led a quintet. He also premiered his composition Rituals (for string quartet, piano, drums and cymbals) in a performance with Hancock and the Kronos Quartet at the San Francisco Jazz Festival in 1991 and the following year participated in the Miles Davis Tribute Tour.

Williams was a highly innovative drummer and a prime influence on jazz styles of the 1970s. From the 1960s he displayed astounding intuition in his accompaniment of soloists, often playing rhythmic figures together with the improviser. His own solos were dramatic essays composed of percussive effects without metre. Even at the fastest of tempos Williams’s playing was characteristically delicate and light, and punctuated by surprising dynamic contrasts; he negotiated ritardandos and accelerandos with ease. He avoided the conventional accenting of alternate beats with the hi-hat, instead involving it in accents and drum patterns, and by 1966 he had introduced his trademark of closing the cymbal on every beat. His general approach to the drum kit, in which he focussed on the independence of the limbs, and his specific techniques with the hi-hat and other instruments were widely emulated by younger drummers. All recordings by Williams’s own groups from 1969 contain heavily amplified guitar and driving rock rhythms, as well as experiments with dissonant sound effects. Williams played in a different style with these groups, using larger drums and thicker sticks. After his return to a jazz context in 1976, however, he played in a somewhat heavier manner than in his performances of the 1960s, but with equal brilliance and ingenuity.


D. DeMicheal: ‘Tony Williams: Miles’ Man’, Down Beat, xxxii/7 (1965), 19, 36–7

C.D. Woodson: Solo Jazz Drumming: an Analytical Study of the Improvisational Techniques of Anthony Williams (thesis, UCLA, 1973)

I. Carr: Miles Davis: a Critical Biography (London, 1982) [incl. discography by B. Priestley]

R. Mattingly: ‘Tony Williams’, Modern Drummer, viii/6 ( 1984), 8–13

J. Chambers: Milestones, ii: The Music and Times of Miles Davis since 1960 (Toronto and Buffalo, 1985)

T. Scherman: ‘Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Growing: Tony Williams Reinvents Himself’, The Jazz Musician, ed. M. Rowland and T. Scherman (New York, 1994), 231–45


Williams, William

(bap. ?London, ?1 Aug 1675; bur. London, 20 Jan 1701). English instrumentalist and composer. He was presumably the William Williams who was a Westminster Abbey choirboy in 1685, and may have been the one baptized at St Margaret's, Westminster on 1 August 1675, the son of Henry and Mary. He was made an extraordinary member of the royal band by a warrant dated 30 March 1695, and was given a salaried place by a warrant dated 6 November 1697. His early death did not pass unmarked. William Congreve mentioned it in a letter dated 28 January 1701, and there is a piece entitled ‘Mr. Williames Farwell’ in John Eccles's suite for Mary Pix's play The Double Distress (March or April 1701). On 28 April 1701 a concert was given at York Buildings ‘by the best Masters for the Benefit of Mr William Williams (late Master of Musick) his widow, and three small Children’, consisting of ‘all new Musick, part of it being his own’. There was another benefit concert for Mrs Williams on 11 December 1706.

Williams's six trio sonatas are inventive and accomplished works in the Anglo-Italian idiom established by Purcell. Nos.1, 3 and 5 are for violins and nos.2, 4 and 6 for recorders, but the composer pointed out when he invited subscriptions on 24 December 1696 that ‘those for the Flutes being writ three notes lower, will go on the Violins, and those for the Violins being rais'd will go on the Flutes, which will make six for each instrument’; the collection finally appeared in an engraved edition in January 1700. The last of the set lives up to its title, ‘Sonata in immitation of Birds’. The sonatas for recorder and continuo and two recorders are rather feeble, and are probably student works. The songs have some imaginative harmonies and expressive vocal writing.


Air, F, vn, b, in J. Lenton, The Gentleman's Diversion (London, 1693)

6 pieces, 2 rec, 16956

Haste, haste ye Britains, song, for the Peace of Ryswick (London, 1697) [taken from his lost musical entertainment for the occasion]

Must I a girl forever be, song, 2vv, b, in The Island Princess (play, P.A. Motteux), 1699, Lbl (facs. in MLE, C2, 1985), 16995

6 Sonatas in 3 Parts, d, C, A, a, c, F, 2 vn/2 rec, b vn/viol, bc (org/hpd/archlute) (London, 1700, 2/1703); ed. G. Beechey (London, 1993); I. Payne (Hereford, 1998)

A Sonata for a Single Flute, d, rec, bc (London, 1700); ed. in HM, ccviii (1971)

Sonata, F, 2 rec, 40 airs anglois, ii (Amsterdam, 1702/R); ed. H. Ruf, Zwei Duos alter englischer Meister (Mainz, 1971)

Untitled theatre suite, 2 vn, va, b, (inc.), GB-Och 351–2

4 songs, 16969, Wit and Mirth, iv (London, 1706)

Catch, The Pleasant Musical Companion, ii (London, 1707)





E. Pine: The Westminster Abbey Singers (London, 1953)

M. Tilmouth: Chamber Music in England, 1675–1720 (diss., U. of Cambridge, 1959)

M. Tilmouth: ‘A Calendar of References to Music in Newspapers Published in London and the Provinces (1660–1719)’, RMARC, i (1961/R)

C.A. Price: Music in the Restoration Theatre (Ann Arbor, 1979)

M. Boyd and J. Rawson: ‘The Gentleman's Diversion: John Lenton and the First Violin Tutor’, EMc, x (1982), 329–32

D. Lasocki: ‘The Detroit Recorder Manuscript (England, c1700)’, American Recorder, xxiii/3 (August 1982), 95–102

I. Payne: ‘Some Aspects of Continuo Realization in England c.1700: William Williams, William Croft and Henry Purcell’, Leading Notes, viii/2 (1998), 22–32


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