Saturday, December 12, 2020

Lifetime Achievement: Tony Williams 75

I'm still suffering with the insolent and insistent insomnia and the drifty head fluids, but there's no way I am gonna miss this birthday even if they intubate me with a chainsaw. So Friday midnight it is once again, because as we have been told, everybody's working for the weekend.

How I have never covered this person before, in seven years of doing this, I can't understand.

I suppose there are always cracks to fall through, but today's b'day boy is way too large to slip between those lines.

In fact, some people believe that Tony Williams is the single greatest drummer in history. Not just Jazz history. History. That's as big as his famously tiny little kickdrum, to which he could lay a mighty boot to make it seem twice the size and more.
He first broke out as but a teenager, in the second classic Miles Davis Quintet, evolving a totally unique, never-the-same-way-once style that totally altered the possibilities for his instrument.
The music they came up with in the 1960s still stands as a one-of-a-kind achievement that people will marvel over long after we are all gone from this rock.
Speaking of Rock, he quit Miles after the terrain-altering In a Silent Way and started to dabble in the then hugely-contemporary Rock idiom, forming Lifetime: one of the first ensembles to achieve a true molecular blend in that Fusion.
From Lifetime was begat The Mahavishnu Orchestra, and from the Mahavishnu Orchestra was begat the Jan Hammer Group, and so forth. Yes, these are of Biblical proportions, these bands.... at least to me. To say Tony is a formative figure in Fusion is like saying Chopin could play piano.
His career juggled more straightahead Jazz and Hard Bop with burning Rock for the next several decades, until he passed at the way-too-young age of 51.
I saw him play just once, at a benefit to get another stellar drummer -- Billy Higgins -- a new liver. He looked like Superman, like he could have played running back for the Raiders. Not too long after that, it came on the news that he had suddenly died.
There's never been another player like him since, really. Oft imitated, never quite equaled for the nexus where the subtle and complex meet the direct and ferocious.
I dithered over what to do to celebrate this tremendous bedrock percussion figure, finally deciding to stitch together the disparate pieces of a great whole show that's never quite circulated in a single, standard and unified form.
This was taped at the old Live Under the Sky thing they used to have in the summer in Tokyo. A great deal of controversy exists about the date, but it has to be July 27 according to my painstaking research. Or, they just didn't have this festival in June, in which it was suggested this took place.... only in July & August.
I used the best available sources, and kind of assembled it into the full show, this time with the opening track (not surprisingly titled Open Fire) at the start where it belongs.
Obviously things get wild from the jump, and only get more pyrotechnic when Billy Cobham sits in for a couple of tunes and a 20-minute drum duet with Tony, much to the delight of the masses in attendance at this 42 years ago.
Tony Williams All-Stars
Koseinenkin Hall
Tokyo, Japan

01 Open Fire
02 Red Alert
03 Rocky Road
04 Wildlife
05 There Comes a Time
06 Dragon Song
07 Heads Up
08 drum duet/Tropic of Capricorn

Total time: 1:20:21
disc break goes after Track 05

Tony Williams - drums & vocals
Ronnie Montrose - guitar
Brian Auger - keyboards
Mario Cipollina - bass
Billy Cobham - drums (Tracks 07 & 08)

reconstruction of the complete concert, using "The Joy of Flying" official CD for Track 01, which was not aired in the live broadcast,
the Oh Boy boot CD "Live Under the Sky" for Track 02, and Tracks 03-08 from the Show Co. boot CD "The Battle Night,"
the latter 2 of which depict, between them, the remainder of the aired FM broadcast from what sounds like a master off-air reel
repaired and assembled by EN, December 2020
I am pretty sick, so I may or may not be able to post for a while, no telling. I will try to do it as long as I'm not incapacitated, but health must come first because dead men can't remaster these bootlegs. Even though you listen to some of 'em, and you wonder sometimes.
Anyway let's all enjoy this monster performance and remember to send a great big drumroll fanfare of thanks to Tony Williams -- born this day in 1945 -- who probably has sent more drummers to the woodshed than there are woodsheds in the world.--J.
12.12.1945 - 2.23.1997