Here is a clip of one of my favorite Tony Williams drum solos. The solo begins at around 25:20 into this clip.
Here are some thoughts on the ideas Tony employs.
First of all, the snares are off for the duration of the solo….in essence, this turns the snare drum into the highest pitched Tom Tom on the drum kit. There is something about doing this that smooths over the entire sound of the kit; it makes the sonics of the drum set more soothing somehow.
Tony plays very melodically, using single stroke rolls to create long notes around the kit. His use of dynamics within these rolls is notable and effective. Listen to the melody he creates and then listen to the melodic and rhythmic themes of the tune. You’ll notice that Tony is playing around with ideas that come from the composition itself.
His use of Swiss Triplets broken up between his hands is a classic Tony Williams idea, and it sounds marvelous here.
Another idea he uses near the beginning of the solo is to take a pattern and play it at different rates of speed. This is another classic idea that Tony uses frequently and it sounds great here, as usual.
This is a masterful and beautiful drum solo. I plan on studying it more deeply and using the ideas in my playing.
A while back I posted the footage of Tony Williams killing it from a Japanese video on You Tube that can be found by simply searching for “Awesome Tony Footage.” It is Tony in all his bombastic glory. He’s playing with Ron Carter, Dizzy Gillespe, Herbie Hancock and others, and he takes eight eights in the video, followed by an extended solo.
The “low hanging fruit” of the eights is the 7th one. It is considerably less dense than anything else he plays during the performance. But for me, it is proof of the notion that one can play simple but appropriate vocabulary when soloing and sound amazing doing so. I love this break so much that I memorized the entire eight shortly after stumbling on the video. The 7th Eight can be found at 2:10 in the video, which is embedded below. Check it out.
The transcription is here: tony williams awesome footage eights number 7
It truly is sublime–reminiscent of the solo Tony took on the studio version of “7 Steps To Heaven.” Not fancy, but pure jazz drumming language through and though. One of the only Tony Williams solos that could be called easy; yet it sounds amazing. Hope you like it. And yes, I’m working on the rest of it too.
Check this out for some serious inspriation. I LOVE this video. Tony starts his solo by warming up! His warm-ups are good enough to be part of a public performance…..think about that. Basically, he starts out playing a continuous double stroke roll, and then moves around between paradiddle combos, singles and doubles…..all continuously….and it all sounds smooth and like one even roll. Try that to work on your hands. Continuous roll…..switching the sticking between singles, doubles and paradiddle combos. Really good exercise. And that is only the tip of the iceberg. This video is chock full of great inspiration and advice from the master.
Oh and PS…..check out a young Vinnie Colaiuta in the audience….just hypnotized…..
“Tony Williams in New York” is a great DVD document of Tony’s Blue Note era band. This was when Tony was playinig his big yellow Gretsch kit with two mounted toms and three floor toms. He had a big sound and of course, Tony played very aggressively, as he always did. This DVD is full of great Tony solos, but I always liked this eight bar break from the tune “City of Lights.” It happens at around 4:30 into the tune. At the bottom of this post is a clip of the song you can have a look and listen. If you would like to download the pdf of this Tony Williams drum solo transcription, just click on the following link: Tony Williams City of Lights Break
This is a classic Tony Williams solo. He was just sooooooo good. This makes me want to go practice every time I hear it. In fact, if you don’t feel like practicing, the thing to do is just listen to Tony Williams, because you’ll be certain be inspired.
This is one of my favorite Tony Williams clips. Totally inspiring. Look at his technique, his confidence, his phrasing…..his joy. Wow, could this guy play. If you are not inspired to practice today, just watch this and you’ll get inspired real fast…..