February 7 – 8
Tony Williams (1945 — 1997) was arguably one of the greatest and most influential jazz drummers of all time. Like many others, I first became aware of Williams through his work with Miles Davis, as part of the legendary trumpeter’s “second great quintet”. Williams joined Miles when he was only 17 years old and appeared on such classic albums as Miles in the Sky, In a Silent Way, Water Babies, Miles Smiles, and a dozen others. Aside from his influential work with Miles, Williams was also an essential component on countless groundbreaking and timeless recordings by other artists. Just a few of them include Stan Getz‘ fusion classic Captain Marvel, Stanley Clarke‘s self-tilted release, and Eric Dolphy‘s masterpiece, Out To Lunch. Surprisingly enough, he even made an appearance on the Bill Laswell-produced, 1985 Public Image Limited album, ALBUM. Not only did he supply the rhythm for Herbie Hancock records like Maiden Voyage and Future2Future, but he was also part of Hancock‘s 1981 Trio (w/Ron Carter) and the V.S.O.P QUINTET (along with Hancock, Carter, Wayne Shorter, & Freddie Hubbard). When you consider that he died at the tender age of 51, the amount of material that he was able to produce becomes even more mind boggling.
As a bandleader, Williams released more than 20 albums alone, the first of which was ironically titled LIFETIME, by the then-18yr-old drummer, in 1964. Borrowing from the title of that first release, Williams went on to form the group The Tony Williams Lifetime and release their debut recording Emergency! in 1961. It’s not surprising that the record was a groundbreaking release that helped to lay the groundwork for jazz fusion, when you note that his collaborators were Larry Young and, one of the greatest pioneers of the genre that the world has ever, or will ever, see, Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. It was also during these sessions that Williams introduced McLaughlin to Miles Davis, whom the guitarist would later go on to work with on some of the greatest albums to ever piss off jazz purists, (Bitches Brew, On The Corner, Live Evil, Big Fun, A Tribute To Jack Johnson, etc ). Shortly after the trio was formed, former Cream bassist/frontman, Jack Bruce joined the rhythm section and round out the group as a 4-piece.
Over the years, The Tony Williams Lifetime had numerous lineup changes and multiple lives of it’s own. After a temporary dissolution, (technically only a couple of years but a “lifetime” in the output heavy jazz world of the era) Jack Bruce made a momentary return to his bass duties in ‘74 as part of a new quintet, which recorded one album that was never officially released. The following year, Williams went on to form a whole new quartet under the moniker of New Tony Williams Lifetime, which continued to endure a revolving formation until his last release under the Lifetime name in 1980. Overall, more than 20 different musicians have been involved in one variation of Lifetime or another. Even though Williams fell victim to an untimely and unfortunate fatal heart attack in 1997, this tradition still continues, even to this day.
Over the years, there have been a couple of tributes organized to the influential group. One was by former Lifetime members Allan Holdsworth and Alan Pasqua. Another was put together by fans/peers, Jack DeJohnette and John Scofield, called Trio Beyond. Perhaps the most fascinating lineups, however, featured former member, Jack Bruce leading an all star group, including: organist, John Medeski (Medeski Martin and Wood), guitar virtuoso, Vernon Reid (Living Colour, Yohimbe Bros.), and Cindy Blackman (Lenny Kravitz) on drums. They only did one tribute show of Lifetime material in Japan at the end of 2008, but have reunited for a handful of shows, including 2 upcoming Seattle dates at Jazz Alley. The versatility in this lineup is ridiculous and the material that they are handling could go in any direction at any moment. Although Blackman may be known by many for her former supporting role for Lenny Kravitz, she is a highly skilled jazz drummer that was not only heavily influenced by the work of Williams, but who has collaborated with endless other jazz greats on her own. If you love music and have an opportunity to catch one of these sets, do yourself a favor; pull your act together, and show up. This is an impressive and unorthodox group of talent, the likes of which is an incredible rarity.
Set times are Monday and Tuesday at 7:30p and 9:30p.
Doors open at 6:00p Monday and 5:30p Tuesday.