Tony Williams: Why I Play the Way I Do

SKF NOTE: This segment is from a good interview by Vernon Gibbs called, Tony Williams: Report On A Musical Lifetime, in the January 29, 1976 Down Beat. I am unable to find the full interview online.

Tony Williams

Tony Williams

Vernon Gibbs: What was there about Art Blakey and Max Roach that impressed you?

Tony Williams: The sound was the thing I liked about Art Blakey. At the time, ’54 or ’55, that sound was pretty huge, as big as any sound today. The thing about Art Blakey was his rhythm and the way he made music sound when he played it. Art Blakey was the first drummer that impressed me because he played with such steady drive, the feeling he had was a feeling that no one else was playing with.

Max Roach played more musically than anybody else. When Max took a solo, if the solo was a 32-bar tune, he could take the tune and make you know exactly where he was. Whether he was in the bridge or the last eight, you’d know it by what he was playing. At the time that’s what made him the master, he took playing the drums to a really sophisticated level. He played with such command.

Philly Joe Jones was the other drummer that influenced me. He played more animated than the two of them. His stuff was stuff that drummers just wouldn’t play. Max played things that were really logical, Art Blakey played things that were just feeling, but Philly Joe played things that were just caricatures of music, he could do things that were just magical with the drums.

The way all of them looked when they played had something to do with the way they played and I was drawn to the glamour of all of it. That’s why I play the way I do.

Roy Haynes was also very influential. I also learned a lot from Louis Hayes and Jimmy Cobb. They gave me a lot of personal help because they actually sat down and showed me things.


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