By the late-1960s Tony Williams was widely regarded as a pioneer among drummers. Interested in exploring more of his own influences and ideas in addition to the Sly Stone, Jimmy Hendrix, and James Brown aesthetic that Miles Davis was exploring at the time (circa 1969), Williams left the Second Great Quintet to put together his own group, The Tony Williams Lifetime. Rounding out Lifetime — or the “organ trio on steroids” as Lenny White describes it — were John McLaughlin on electric guitar and Larry Young on organ, both of whom were equally as innovative with their own instruments and compositions as Williams was with the drums (though this lineup would change numerous times over the years).

Tony Williams - Jan Persson

With 1969 came both the Lifetime’s debut, Emergency!, as well as Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew — two different visions of the same period in music. For those who are familiar with both the Robert Glasper Experiment and Esperanza Spalding, we can see similar parallels today  with the 2012 release of Black Radio and Radio Music Society. These artists molded and enriched what it meant to synthesize the music they were hearing with their jazz roots — each with a different vision and aesthetic. Williams sums it up best in an interview in the November 1983 issue of DownBeat Magazine when asked about his seeming departure at times from the complexity of jazz drumming when he says, “Complexity is not the attraction for me, anyway—it’s the feeling of the music, the feeling generated on the bandstand. So playing in a heavy rock situation can be as satisfying as anything else. If I’m playing just a backbeat with an electric bass and a guitar, when it comes together, it’s a really great feeling.” This is the mentality that led Tony Williams to become one of the most influential drummers of all time.

Between 1971 and 1972 Williams embarked on a string of well-documented performances both with his Lifetime band and subsequently with various groups put together in lieu of his regular lineup that became hugely influential in spreading his sound. Check out some of the highlights and full-show performances documented around this time below:

Montreux Jazz Festival (June 13, 1971)

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Lineup: Tony Williams- drums, Don Alias – conga, Warren Smith – percussion, Larry Young – organ, Ted Dunbar – guitar, Juni Booth – bass

Tony Williams Lifetime on POP2 French TV (August 7, 1971)

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Lineup: Tony Williams- drums, Don Alias – conga, Warren Smith – percussion, Larry Young – organ, Ted Dunbar – guitar, Juni Booth – bass

Tony Williams Life Time Experience at the Festival de Chateauvallon (August 23, 1972)

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Lineup: Tony Williams – drums, Stanley Clarke – bass, Jean-Luc Ponty – violin

The Stan Getz Quartet at Montreux (1972)

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Lineup: Tony Williams – drums, Stan Getz – tenor saxophone, Stanley Clarke – drums, Chick Corea – piano (*Check out the ‘Captain Marvel‘ album for more of this quartet)

Words by Eric Sandler (@ericsandler)

Comments

4 Replies to "Tony Williams: Live From 1971 & 1972"
mike says:
April 8, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Who the hell was the guitarist for the Montreux 1971 video?

    mike says:
    April 8, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    nevermind I am slow…and drinking.

josh says:
May 16, 2013 at 3:22 pm

so incredible. thanks for sharing

josh says:
May 16, 2013 at 3:23 pm

so incredible! thanks for sharing. You definitely hear Tony’s influence all over the place. Hard to believe he was only 17 when he was playing for Miles.

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