Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday Jazz: Tony Williams

Words By Zach Zeidner

The Joy of Flying

Tony Williams may arguably be the greatest jazz drummer ever. His early work with Miles Davis demonstrated his unique technical abilities and earned him a spot as one of the top coveted hard-bop and post-bop drummers. As the times went one and jazz went electric Williams verified his desire to go electric with his project, Tony Williams Lifetime. This project originally was an intensely psychedelic infused power trio including master guitarist the Mahavishnu John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young. What developed from this original trio was Emergency! - Originally released as two separate LPs, this album blew people away and as contemporary bassist Christian McBride puts it “that album is pure evil!”. As the project developed, they inducted Jack Bruce of Cream into the band and released the album Turn It Over. The addition of a bassist allowed for more complex, lengthy and goal-driven jams, as Young did not have to account for the bass lines with his feet.

As the seventies drew on, Williams developed even more astonishing projects. In 1978, he released The Joy of Flying, an incredible album with multiple lineups throughout the album that made this record the outstanding piece of work it is. Starting off with a duo piece by Williams and Jan Hammer, the album immediately goes into one of the most noteworthy tunes of the album. “Hip Skip” is a progressively funky jam that doesn’t stop peaking until the tune finally comes to a close. With George Benson on guitar, Jan Hammer on keys, Paul Jackson on bass, Michael Brecker on Tenor Sax, Ralph Macdonald on percussion, Jon Faddis on Trumpet, Randy Brecker on Trumpet, Barry Rodgers on Trombone, Ronnie Cuber on Baritone Sax, and David Sanborn on Alto sax, the lineup could not be more promising. The next tune “Hittin’ on 6” is a monstrously funk-infused psychedelic jam that includes Tom Scott on lyricon, Stanley Clarke on bass, and Herbie Hancock on keys. Ya, I don’t really need to explain how destructive that song is. The album continues with extended funky jams full of some technically mind-blowing drum parts that will make your jaw drop. As well, for an added bonus a duo between Williams and avant-garde pianist extraordinaire, Cecil Taylor, closes the album with an astonishingly disjointed yet strikingly coupled jam which will leave you perplexed and discombobulated as you try to unravel what you just aurally witnessed.

Purchase Tony Williams' "The Joy of Flying" on


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