Few drummers have altered the course of drumming forever — Tony Williams was one of them. Joining Miles Davis at age 17, Williams proved to be more than a mere prodigy, amazing listeners worldwide with his fluid interdependence and ease in expressing abstract ideas. And his powers only grew more daunting over time. You’d be hard-pressed to find a jazz drummer today who wouldn’t cite Williams as a major influence. His highly improvisational and often complex playing seems risky, like someone dancing blindfolded at the edge of a cliff. But Williams always knew what he was doing — that sense of potential danger was one of the things that kept his playing vital. He was very powerful and could be surprisingly loud, unafraid to dominate an ensemble with his brilliance. What’s more, Williams didn’t limit himself to just being a jazz drummer. He helped create fusion drumming and, unlike many jazz drummers, felt comfortable playing rock. He was able to be a chameleon because he understood and adapted his skills to the requirements of new idioms. Tony Williams was a genius and his premature death at 51 was a tragic loss to music lovers and drummers everywhere.
“Hittin’ On 6” from Joy Of Flying by Tony Williams
This tune by Tom Scott is in 6/4 and has a bouncing swing feel that inspired Williams to play some cool grooves. For the first pattern, the snare falls on 2 and 5 with the kick drum usually hitting 1 and the & of 2, though Williams embellishes the figure freely. After the first break, he moves the snare to 1 and drops a bass drum on the e of that beat. The drum fill in the first break uses a Swiss triplet sticking but is played as eighth-notes and flows over the bar line.