Basic Background Info

Birth: December 12, 1945 - February 23, 1997
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Band: Miles Davis, Lifetime
Genres: Jazz
Instruments: Drums
Occupation: Musician


Tony Williams' unexpected death at fifty-one years old cut short a thriving career of a spirited jazz drummer.

Tony Williams studied music at a young age under his father. His father, a saxophonist, took young Tony Williams to clubs with him and allowed him to sit in on his performances. In addition to learning from his father, Tony Williams studied under jazz drummer Alan Dawson. As a teenager, Tony Williams participated in jam sessions throughout Boston and regularly played with jazz composition legend Sam Rivers. 

In 1962, Tony Williams moved to New York City, where he frequently played with Jackie McLean before teaming up with Miles Davis. Described by Davis as 'the center that the group's sound revolved around,' Tony Williams practically redefined what drums could do. No longer were drums mere timekeeping. Using tools such as metric modulation and the use of polyrhythms, Tony Williams brought drums up to the same level of stage prominence as the other instruments. Along with Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter, he backed Miles Davis for seven years, gaining experience and notoriety every step of the way. The exposure helped Tony Williams secure an appearance on Eric Dolphy's album, Out to Lunch.

When Tony Williams parted ways with Davis, he created a fusion trio called Lifetime with Larry Young and John McLaughlin. The band combined Tony Williams's love for avant-garde jazz and rock music. Even as Lifetime evolved, Tony Williams led them with deft skill and pride.

After Lifetime, Tony Williams freelanced and spent time learning compositional techniques. Tony Williams also joined Herbie Hancock and his band, V.S.O.P. Tony once again led his own band in the late 80s. Unlike his previous work, this band played solid, hard bop with a team of all stars, including Wallace Roney. Tony then went on to record a series of original records in the mid 1990s.

Following routine gallbladder surgery, Tony experienced a heart attack and unexpectedly passed away. The tragedy sent shockwaves through the jazz community as one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time was lost.


Album Year Album Name Album Band
1945 Trumpet at Tempo Howard McGhee
1947 Great Jazz Vocalists Sing Strayhorn & Ellington Various Artists
1949 Charlie Parker & Stars of Modern Jazz at Carnegie Hall Charlie Parker
1952 Jazz-Club: Alto Sax Various Artists
1955 Best of Kenny Dorham: Blue Note Years Kenny Dorham
1955 Circle in the Round Miles Davis
1956 Meilleur de Miles Davis Miles Davis
1956 Miles Davis: The Columbia Years 1955-1985 Miles Davis
1957 Jazz-Club: Violin Various Artists
1957 Miles Davis and Gil Evans: Complete Columbia Studio Recordings Miles Davis/Gil Evans
1959 Vertigo Jackie McLean
1960 Directions Miles Davis
1962 Quiet Nights Miles Davis
1963 Blue Note Years Joe Henderson
1963 Evolution Grachan Moncur III
1963 Miles in Antibes Miles Davis
1963 My Point of View Herbie Hancock
1963 One Step Beyond Jackie McLean
1963 Una Mas Kenny Dorham
1964 Best of Wayne Shorter Wayne Shorter
1964 Complete Blue Note Sam Rivers Sessions Sam Rivers
1964 Complete Concert: 1964 (My Funny Valentine & "Four More") Miles Davis
1964 Empyrean Isles Herbie Hancock
1964 Four & More Miles Davis
1964 Fuchsia Swing Song Sam Rivers
1964 Immortal Concerts: New York City Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center, February 12, 1964 Miles Davis Quintet
1964 Life Time Tony Williams' Lifetime
1964 Miles in Berlin Miles Davis
1964 Miles in Tokyo Miles Davis
1964 My Funny Valentine Miles Davis
1964 Out to Lunch Eric Dolphy
1964 Point of Departure Andrew Hill
1964 Some Other Stuff Grachan Moncur III
1965 At Plugged Nickel, Chicago Miles Davis
1965 At Plugged Nickel, Chicago, Vol. 2 Miles Davis
1965 Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965 Miles Davis
1965 Cookin' at the Plugged Nickel Miles Davis
1965 E.S.P. Miles Davis
1965 Highlights from the Plugged Nickel Miles Davis
1965 Live at the Plugged Nickel Miles Davis
1965 Maiden Voyage Herbie Hancock
1965 Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-68: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings Miles Davis Quintet
1965 Of Course, Of Course Charles Lloyd
1965 Soothsayer Wayne Shorter
1965 Spring Tony Williams
1966 Miles Smiles Miles Davis
1967 Milestone Years Joe Henderson
1967 Nefertiti Miles Davis
1967 Sorcerer Miles Davis
1967 Sweet Rain Stan Getz
1967 Water Babies Miles Davis
1968 Filles de Kilimanjaro Miles Davis
1968 Miles in the Sky Miles Davis
1969 Emergency! The Tony Williams' Lifetime
1969 In a Silent Way Miles Davis
1969 Spectrum: The Anthology Tony Williams Lifetime
1970 Ego The Tony Williams Lifetime
1970 Turn It Over The Tony Williams Lifetime
1971 Going East Billy Paul
1972 Captain Marvel Stan Getz
1972 Living Time Bill Evans
1972 Miles Davis at the Lincoln Center Miles Davis
1972 Old Bum's Rush Tony Williams
1972 Silver City: A Celebration of 25 Years on Milestone Sonny Rollins
1973 Puttin' in Time on Planet Earth Ben Sidran
1974 Gil Evans' Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix Gil Evans
1974 Golden Scarab Ray Manzarek
1974 Stanley Clarke Stanley Clarke
1975 Believe It Tony Williams
1975 Lifetime: The Collection Tony Williams' Lifetime
1975 There Comes a Time Gil Evans
1976 Hear and Now Don Cherry
1976 In Retrospect John McLaughlin & Mahavishnu Orchestra
1976 Love for Sale Great Jazz Trio
1976 Million Dollar Legs Tony Williams
1976 Quintet V.S.O.P.
1976 Solo Sue Glover
1977 At Montreux Stan Getz
1977 At the Village Vanguard Hank Jones
1977 Birds of Passage Sadao Watanabe with the Great Jazz Trio
1977 Doctor Is In Ben Sidran
1977 Easy Living Sonny Rollins
1977 Great Jazz Trio at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 Hank Jones & the Great Jazz Trio
1977 Great Jazz Trio at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 2 Hank Jones & the Great Jazz Trio
1977 Great Jazz Trio Direct from L.A. Great Jazz Trio/Hank Jones
1977 Herbie Hancock Trio Herbie Hancock
1977 Illumination Walter Davis, Jr.
1977 Kindness, Joy, Love and Happiness Great Jazz Trio
1977 May Dance Terumasa Hino
1977 Moonlight in Vermont Sonny Stitt
1977 Say No More Les Dudek
1977 Supertrios McCoy Tyner
1977 Tempest in the Colosseum V.S.O.P. the Quintet
1977 Third Plane Ron Carter with Herbie Hancock and Tony
1977 V.S.O.P.: The Quintet Herbie Hancock
1977 You Can't Go Home Again Chet Baker
1978 1 + 3 Ron Carter
1978 Don't Stop the Carnival Sonny Rollins
1978 Great Tokyo Meeting Great Jazz Trio/Hank Jones
1978 Joy of Flying Tony Williams' Lifetime
1978 Milestones Great Jazz Trio
1978 Mr. Gone Weather Report
1978 New Wine in Old Bottles Jackie McLean & The Great Jazz Trio
1978 Passion Dance McCoy Tyner
1978 Standard Bearers Ron Carter & Friends
1979 Ballads for Two Chet Baker with W. Lackerschmid
1979 Electric Guitarist John McLaughlin
1979 Global Blues Danny O'Keefe
1979 Havana Jam Various Artists
1979 Havana Jam 2 Various Artists
1979 Movies Michael Mantler
1979 New World Didier Lockwood
1979 Parade Ron Carter
1979 Relaxin' at Camarillo Joe Henderson
1979 Summer Jam, 1979: Live Under the Sky Chick Corea/Al DiMeola/Tony Williams/Bun
1980 Swing of Delight Carlos Santana
1981 Fuse One Fuse One
1981 Herbie Hancock Trio Herbie Hancock Trio
1981 Live Under the Sky V.S.O.P.
1981 Mabumi Mabumi Yamaguchi
1981 No Problem Sonny Rollins
1981 Quartet Herbie Hancock Quartet
1981 Wynton Marsalis Wynton Marsalis
1982 Third Plane Tony Williams
1983 Blues in the Closet Tommy Flanagan
1983 Ivanhoe Bunny Brunel
1983 Maiden Voyage Art Farmer
1985 Best of Tony Williams Tony Williams
1985 Foreign Intrigue Tony Williams
1985 One Night with Blue Note Preserved Various Artists
1985 Other Side of Round Midnight Dexter Gordon
1985 Phantom of the City George Cables
1985 Starpeace Yoko Ono
1985 Sun City: Artists United Against Apartheid Various Artists
1986 Atavachron Allan Holdsworth
1986 Civilization Tony Williams
1986 Columbia Jazz Masterpiece Sampler, Vol. 3 Various Artists
1986 Mani and Co. L. Subramaniam
1986 Renaissance Branford Marsalis
1987 Blues for Salvador Carlos Santana
1987 Hanging Fire Jimmy Cliff
1987 Verses Wallace Roney
1988 Angel Street Tony Williams
1988 Best of Herbie Hancock: The Blue Note Years Herbie Hancock
1988 Countdown Mulgrew Miller
1988 Lyrical Stan Getz Stan Getz
1988 New Beginnings Don Pullen
1989 Complete Recordings Fuse One
1989 Jazz Club: Drums Various Artists
1989 Native Heart Tony Williams
1989 Watt Works Family Album Various Artists
1990 Carnaval Ron Carter
1990 Marked for Death Original Soundtrack
1990 Word Jonas Hellborg
1991 Best of Blue Note, Vols. 1 & 2 Various Artists
1991 Dianne Reeves Dianne Reeves
1991 Illuminations: An Axiom Compilation Various Artists
1991 Jazz Collection Herbie Hancock
1991 Neo Geo Ryuichi Sakamoto
1991 New York: Live Tony Williams
1991 Story of Neptune Tony Williams
1992 Blue Break Beats, Vol. 1 Various Artists
1992 Breakout Jimmy Cliff
1992 Onobox Yoko Ono
1992 Pride of Lions Various Artists
1992 Seven Steps to Heaven Miles Davis/Gil Evans
1992 Tokyo Live Tony Williams
1992 Walking on Thin Ice Yoko Ono
1993 Blacktronic Science Bernie Worrell
1993 Compact Jazz: John McLaughlin John McLaughlin
1993 No Room 2 Breathe Dynamic Twins
1993 Sun Don't Lie Marcus Miller
1993 Travis Shook Travis Shook
1993 Unmasked Tony Williams
1994 Art Attack Madeline Eastman
1994 In San Francisco Fumio Karashima
1994 Marvellous Michel Petrucciani
1994 Master Trio Tommy Flanagan
1994 Tribute to Miles Various Artists
1994 Twenty One Geri Allen Trio
1994 Verve Jazz Masters 32 Chet Baker
1994 You Hardly Know Me Tom Grant
1995 2:00 AM Michael Wolff Trio
1995 Esquire Jazz Collection: Breakthrough! Various Artists
1995 Esquire Jazz Collection: Toward the Light Various Artists
1995 From Philly with Love: Rhythm and Soul Various Artists
1995 In from the Storm Various Artists
1995 Jumpstart Michael Wolff Trio
1995 Steel on Steel Dave Hole
1996 Best of the Three Degrees: When Will I See You Again The Three Degrees
1996 Complete Charlie Parker on Dial Charlie Parker
1996 Last Wave Arcana
1996 Legendary Dial Masters, Vols. 1-2 Charlie Parker
1996 'Round Midnight: Hommage ‡ Thelonious Monk Thelonious Monk
1996 Sahra Khaled
1996 Wilderness Tony Williams
1997 According to Mr. Roney Wallace Roney
1997 Appointment With His Majesty Burning Spear
1997 Arc of the Testimony Arcana
1997 Bass-ic Collection Stanley Clarke
1997 Blue Box: The Best of Blue Note Various Artists
1997 Blue Note: A Story of Modern Jazz Various Artists
1997 Greatest Hits Miles Davis
1997 Groovy, Vol. 2: A Collection of Rare Jazzy Club Track Various Artists
1997 Heathen Mega Mix Various Artists
1997 Jazz Fusion, Vol. 1 Various Artists
1997 Jazz Profile Herbie Hancock
1998 Battle of the Bands: Evans Vs. Mingus Various Artists
1998 Best of Don Pullen Don Pullen
1998 Blue Note Years 1939-1999 Various Artists
1998 Complete Blue Note Sixties Sessions Herbie Hancock
1998 Jazz for a Rainy Afternoon Various Artists
1998 Jazz Singers 1919-1994 Various Artists
1998 Love in Exile Salim Washington
1998 Panthalassa: The Music of Miles Davis 1969-1974 Miles Davis/Bill Laswell
1998 Party in Session -- Live Michael Rose
1998 Regatta Mondatta, Vol. 2: Police Reggae Tribute Various Artists
1998 Town Hall Concert Various Artists
1998 Young at Heart Tony Williams
1999 Autumn Jazz Various Artists
1999 Basic Jazz, Vol. 3 Various Artists
1999 Best of the Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-1968 Miles Davis
1999 Blue Note Years, Vol. 4: Hard Bop & Beyond 1963-1967 Various Artists
1999 Blue Note Years, Vol. 5: Avant Garde 1963-1967 Various Artists
1999 Blue Note Years, Vol. 6: New Era 1975-1998 Various Artists
1999 Every Day Is a New Day Diana Ross
1999 Future Jazz Howard Mandel
1999 Indian Express/Mani & Co. L. Subramaniam
1999 It's a Curious Life Anthony Hindson
1999 Late Night Jazz Essentials Various Artists
1999 Legacy, Vol. 3: Why Shouldn't You Cry Chet Baker
1999 Living Dub, Vol. 4 Burning Spear
1999 No Job Too Big or Small Wallace Roney
1999 Writing's on the Wall Destiny's Child
2000 Finding Forrester Original Soundtrack
2000 Jazz Greatest Hits: Miles Davis/Dave Brubeck/Thelonious Monk Miles Davis/Dave Brubeck/Thelonious Monk
2000 Ken Burns Jazz Herbie Hancock
2000 Portrait: Stan Getz Stan Getz
2001 Complete In a Silent Way Sessions Miles Davis
2001 Future 2 Future Herbie Hancock
2001 Mouth Music Bobby McFerrin
2002 Best of Blue Note Box Various Artists
2002 Best of Miles Davis Miles Davis
2002 Blue Moods: Music for You Miles Davis
2002 Burnin' Bird Charlie Parker
2002 Classic Blue Note Recordings Wayne Shorter
2002 Classic Jazz: Jazz Masters Various Artists
2002 Definitive Chet Baker Chet Baker
2002 Herbie Hancock Box Herbie Hancock
2002 No More Blues Miles Davis
2003 1965-1968 Miles Davis Quintet
2003 Essential Herbie Hancock
2003 Hand on the Torch Us3
2003 Love Songs, Vol. 2 Miles Davis
2003 Mosaic Select: Grachan Moncur III Grachan Moncur III
2004 Blue Note Plays the Beatles Various Artists
2004 Happy Birthday Newport: 50 Swinging Years Various Artists
2004 Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix Various Artists
2005 Collection: Sketches of Spain/Kind of Blue/In a Silent Way Miles Davis
2006 Hits of '55: Moments to Remember Various Artists
2006 Winter in Europe 1967 Miles Davis
2006 The Essential Herbie Hancock (Columbia/Legacy) Herbie Hancock
2006 The Essential George Benson George Benson
2006 Thank God for Jazz Tony Williams
2006 Superdrummers Various Artists
2006 The Review (1968-2000) Michael Mantler
2006 Milestones Profiles Mccoy Tyner
2006 Great Sessions Herbie Hancock
2006 Flamingo/Marvellous Michel Petrucianni
2006 Cool & Collected Miles Davis
2007 The Trio of Doom Live The Trio of Doom
2007 The Essential John McLaughlin John McLaughlin
2007 The Essential Jaco Pastorius Jaco Pastorius
2007 Original Album Classics (Round About Midnight/Milestones/1958 Miles/Porgy & Bess/Miles Ahead) Miles Davis
2007 Original Album Classics Stanley Clarke
2007 Objects Appear Closer Great Jazz Trio
2007 Mosaic Select: Tony Williams Tony Williams
2007 Live at the 1963 Monterey Jazz Festival Miles Davis
2007 Les Dudek/Say No More Les Dudek
2007 In Motion Tony Williams
2007 Discover Miles Davis Miles Davis
2007 Evolution of the Groove Miles Davis
2007 Columbia Jazz Profile George Benson
2008 Then and Now: The Definitive Herbie Hancock Herbie Hancock
2008 The Complete Dreyfus Jazz Recordings Michel Petrucciani
2008 Playlist: The Very Best of Miles Davis Miles Davis
2008 Jazz Profiles Gil Evans
2008 Jazz Profiles Stan Getz
2008 Can You Follow (Box Set) Jack Bruce
2009 The Music of Miles Davis Miles Davis
2009 The Collection: Sorcerer/Kind of Blue/In A Silent Way Miles Davis
2009 The Collection: Sketches of Spain/Kind of Blue/In A Silent Way Miles Davis
2009 Havanajam Fania All-Stars
2009 Havanajam 2 Fania All-Stars
2010 The Complete Columbia Album Collection 1972-1988 Herbie Hancock
2010 Electric Guitarist/Electric Dreams John McLaughlin
2011 The Complete Columbia Albums Collection Dexter Gordon
2011 Setlist: The Very Best of Miles Davis Live Miles Davis
2011 Live In Europe 1967, The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 Miles Davis
2011 Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology Various Artists
2012 The Complete Columbia Albums Collection Stan Getz
2012 The Complete 1970s Epic Albums Collection Stanley Clarke
2012 The Columbia Albums 1976-82 Weather Report
2014 The Box Set Series Miles Davis


  • As well as being the name of Herbie Hancock's band, V.S.O.P. is a designation for cognac meaning Very Superior Old Pale.

Instruments of Choice



Drums: Gretsch
Cymbals: Zildjian
Hardware: Gretsch 
Heads: Remo 
Sticks: Zildjian 

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