Tony Williams

Tony Williams

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February 23, 1997 (Age 51) died

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Chicago, Illinois, U.S. Birthplace

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An influential jazz drummer considered by some to be the first fusion drummer. Tony Williams began his career in 1962 at the young age of 17 when he joined the Miles Davis Quintet. Williams, along with Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter, was part of one of jazz's great rhythm sections. He is particularly noted for his pioneering free and open style of playing. During the 1960s Williams also recorded avant garde albums with Jackie McClean and Eric Dolphy in addition to recording two albums of his own. After leaving Davis in 1969, Williams formed the trio, The Tony Williams Lifetime, which is considered to be one of the first fusion bands. In 1976 he recorded and then toured with Herbie Hancock's V.S.O.P. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Williams worked as a sideman and led his own hard bop group. In 1997 Tony Williams passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 51 following routine gallbladder surgery.


Tony Williams was invited to join Miles Davis' Quintet when he was just 17 years old. Tony Williams studied composition at Juilliard and UC Berkeley while continuing to work as a top tier musician. Although dismissed at the time of its release, "Emergency!", The Tony Williams Lifeline's first album, is considered a fusion classic today.

Early Life

Tony Williams was born in Chicago in 1945 and grew up in Boston. He began playing the drums at age 8. His father, saxophonist Tillmon Williams, began taking Williams to clubs where he could when he was 11 years old. By age 15 Williams was playing regularly around Boston and working with saxophonist Sam Rivers. Williams moved to New York in 1962 where he started playing with Jackie McClean. A few months later he joined Miles Davis' quintet.