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the fusion-era tony williams...


Guest donald petersen
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Guest akanalog

listening to some of tony williams 70s work-i began thinking that i was disappointed that he did not seem to translate his concepts and sense of dynamics from his 60s work into something that would fit in with his 70s work. emergency! (not quite 70s i guess) definitely shows the old williams, but from then on he seemed to turn into a basher, to my ears. this is also reflected in his more straight work at the time like the sonny rollins album "no problem" (is that what it is called? the one with hutcherson and bobby broom) but i was just thinking williams didn't translate what i liked about him to his lifetime bands and beyond though i guess he got back to it later in life. he seemed to lose a lot of his subtelty and i guess he wasn't playing subtle music with the likes of alan holdsworth, but still....he sounds kind of like billy cobham back there.

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A dreadful waste of a dazzling talent, but it was hard to earn a living playing serious jazz after the late 60s (and earlier as well). So, while we treasure Tony's albums with Miles, Jackie McLean and Bobby Hutcherson etc., we can hardly blame the guy for changing to rubbish music. Same with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. That "Headhunters" album of Herbie's is less interesting than watching paint dry, but a guy's gotta eat.

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Maybe it's the fact that I'm a drummer. Maybe it's the fact that my ears simply work. But, man, how dare you guys? Tony played louder. He did not bash. He still played traditional grip, and he still used his chops for the greater good. The albums with Holdsworth are kinda blah to my ears, but the quintet stuff of the 80's and 90's? That's phat. The last trio record? Amazing. The Tribute to Miles and the VSOP stuff? First rate. And Tony at his most musical in the 70's? Captain Marvel by Stan Getz.

Just because there's a Rhodes doesn't make it bad. I promise.

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Guest akanalog

yo jazzypaul, i wasn't dogging williams 80s and 90s music. it just seemed in the 70s, to my ears, instead of giving a fresh take on the fusion genre, williams seemed to sort of bash in a more predictable way.

i like fusion. in fact i like fusion more than straighter jazz. that wasn't my point.

also, i have read reviews of "captain marvel' complaining about williams' over-powerful playing. not having listened to this album in three or four years, i will reserve my own comment.

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I had the Lifetime albums at one point. Unfortunately that is no longer the case but I will acquire them on cd if they are available. I saw Tony a few years after the Lifetime group ran their course and I hate to say this but I was really disappointed.The group he had consisted of keyboards,guitar and bass and it seemed that the whole plan was to play every note at the fastest possible speed. It was all flash and no substance. The audience was totally indifferent to this and Tony bailed about halfway through the show.

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To say that Tony Williams turned into Billy Cobham is akin to saying that Charlie Parker turned into Sonny Stitt.

I've always had the impression/suspiscion that Tony was goint through some personal changes for the better part of the first half the 70s, especially . He just kinda dropped out there for a while and hardly popped up at all.

Thing is, Tony ALWAYS bashed. You think there's no bashing on those Miles sides, listen again. But those were not the yellow drums he was using back then. :g:g:g

It must have been tough being Tony Williams - he was a kid who by all accounts really did have a heavy-duty rock and roll heart, but he was blessed/cursed with one of the keenest jazz drumming sensabilities of all time fromt he time he was just a kid, and that's how he grew up - as a jazzer. I've always felt that his various crash and bash projects were attempts by him to get back to the garage band youth that he never had the luxury of living for himself.

Can't fault him for that, not really.

ROSEBUD

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I think Tony certainly got louder, and heavier, and his cymbals got brighter and splashier from the 70's on for sure. I was listening to a few tunes off of Herbie's "Quartet" last night, and one thing Tony definitely does often on that, perhaps maybe too overdone by that time, was the high hat on every beat, maybe the way the high hat was mic'ed but real pronounced on everything from that era on, I've heard.

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I recently added Emergency and Turn It Over to my collection. I dig the raucous playing by Tony, it's McLaughlin that tests my patience at times.

Also dig the funky electric Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, BWTFDIK?

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What seemed to characterize Tony's best work from the 60's (that I absolutely adore) was his pristine work on the ride cymbal. IMO this is what gave his work such sensitivity and intellect. It seems that Tony got away from this in the 70's and never quite re-gained it.

Don't get me wrong, he was still one hell of a drummer until the day he was taken away from us. However, I do think his work after the 60s lacked the subtlety and intellect of his best work from the 60's.

Edited by ADR
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I love Tony Williams' playing in the 60's, on the Miles quintet sessions and the Blue Note albums by McLean, Sam Rivers and others. But his playing in the 80's and 90's just leaves me cold, independently of the context he plays in. It has nothing to do with not liking his jazz-rock evolution.

In the 60's he played so many rhythm variations on the cymbal, it was very exciting just to concentrate on him (I normally don't listen to the drummer especially). But on later non-rock albums like McCoy Tyner's "Supertrios", his cymbal playing is mechanical, noisy and boring in comparision with what he did in the 60's.

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I'm with a few others here. Tony was still an awesome drummer, I certainly couldn't hold a candle GNUB in comparison. . . . BUT I don't prefer his drumming after the mid-seventies. . . . And I don't listen to much of it. Whereas his drumming of the sixties just inspired and inspires the hell out of me!

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I too would say that he changed the sound to the heavier side, but the variations he played were highly complex and way above the level of most fusion of rock drummers. He played the same things on the ride cymbal, but they sound different because he used a heavier gauge. He liked to "bash" because he always found that almost everybody - audience and musicians - are afraid of the loudness of a powerful drumset - an experience I can confirm from my own stage experience. That's the reason his drums were upfront from the Lifetime period. I love this powerful sound. His interactional reflexes were still in full shape - I once saw a TV broadcast of Herbie Hancock with Tony and Buster Williams were he blew everybody away. And for subtlety, check the last trio recording with Mulgrew Miller and Ira Coleman. He was so innovative early in his career, he had to decide on a slight change of direction. His music was deep black. I love all of his records, from beginning to end!

Edited by mikeweil
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I love all of his records, from beginning to end!

I'm pretty much with you most of the way on that one, bro, but I gotta back out for MILLION DOLLAR LEGS. ;)

I am with you on this one - never bought it, you know why - but so it's a blank spot in my memory. ;)

Edited by mikeweil
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Tony was Tony and was entitled to do whatever the hell he wanted. But I much prefer his earlier style, pre-mid-seventies. At that point in time, he was perhaps the greatest ever.

One thing I found recently though is that even much later, he was quite capable of still playing in that manner. I came across a copy of George Cables' PHANTOM OF THE CITY (Contemporary) LP, which by the way is fabulous all around and seems WAY, WAY overdue for a CD reissue.

Williams sounds very much like his Miles era self on that LP, yet it was recorded in the mid-80's. So that tells you his "louder" (I like the phrase "over the top") playing on stuff like his own BN leader dates from around there was by design (and also his being WAY too up front in the mix on those dates was I'm sure his call too). I don't prefer it, but he did it that way.

Check out the Cables LP if you want proof he was still the greatest right up through the later years.

Edited by DrJ
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There was a Hal Galper record he was on in the mid to late 70's -- with Tarumasa Hino, that just explodes, in all the best musical sense. The entire lp is electrifying from start to finish, in no small part to Williams' playing, which to me combined his playing from Lifetime with the Blue Note period. And as far as criticism of his 80's and 90's Blue Note work, I just don't agree. He led a fine jazz group, and while maybe some of it couldn't translate well in a studio enviroment, it is quite clear from the double cd Live in Tokyo date that they were smoking.

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