Tony Williams Portrait
Tony Williams Portrait (Photo credit: Professor Bop)

Tony Williams departed much too soon.  I mean, he died in 1997 when he was the same age that I am now.  There should still be tons of life left in a person that age.  Unfortunately, he died at age 51 in 1997 of a heart attack following routine gall bladder surgery.

Fortunately, by the time he passed away, he left the world a wealth of brilliant music — and some ferociously powerful drumming — with some of the legends of jazz, and through his group Lifetime he helped pioneer this thing that became known as jazz-fusion.

He may have died when he was 51, but by that time Tony had been a major player in jazz and fusion for about 35 years.  It never ceases to amaze me to read stories like that of Tony Williams and the things musicians like him accomplish at such a relatively young age — I mean, to be on top of the world as a jazz drummer by the age of 17 … with a Miles Davis quintet?  Miles … Davis!

Williams had already led a band in 1964 and put out an avant garde album called “Life Time.”  In 1969, he led one again with a group called Lifetime with blazing guitarist John McLaughlin and a great organ player in Larry Young, with Jack Bruce of Cream fame joining on bass later on.  When McLaughlin moved on and Tony later put together a New Lifetime, he stoked another fire with guitarist Allan Holdsworth.

But that was still relatively the beginning to all that Tony Williams could do and should have done.

If only he hadn’t left us so soon.


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