THE OFFICIAL JEFF WILLIAMS WEBSITE
Legendary Jazz Drummer
Born in Mount Vernon, Ohio, Jeff began his professional jazz drumming career in New York in 1971. By '72 he was playing with Stan Getz, followed by
Dave Liebman and Lookout Farm through 1976. His other associations include Joe Lovano, Lee Konitz, Paul Bley, Bill McHenry, Ethan Iverson,
Tony Malaby, Leo Genovese and a host of others. Since making a second home in London some years ago Jeff has performed with Kenny Wheeler,
Norma Winstone, Martin Speake, Nikki Illes, Olie Brice and more, in addition to leading his own bands, whose members have included Phil Robson,
Kit Downes, Finn Peters, Josh Arcoleo, Sam Lasserson, John O'Gallagher, Duane Eubanks and John Hébert. Jeff has recorded five albums for the Whirlwind Recordings label showcasing his original compositions. The latest, Bloom , features Carmen Staaf-piano and Michael Formanek-bassand is available in both CD and 180 gram LP formats. Having benefitted from much experience, and extensive study with the great Alan Dawson,
Jeff has given jazz drumming instruction at a number of universities and currently teaches at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Photo by John Rogers
Upcoming performances -
Please help support London's Vortex Jazz Club:
The Jeff Williams' Bloom May 2020 tour
(Carmen Staaf & Michael Formanek) -
-Has been postponed until 2021
- 24 Hours Ant Trip Ceremony 1967 (CD release by Cicadelic 1999)
- Friends Marc Cohen, John Abercrombie, Clint Houston, Jeff Williams 1972 (Oblivion)
- Lookout Farm Dave Liebman 1973 (ECM)
- Eon Richard Beirach 1974 (ECM)
- Drum Ode Dave Liebman 1974(ECM)
- Father Time Frank Tusa 1975 (Enja)
- Methuselah Richard Beirach 1975 (Trio)
- Ashirbad Badal Roy 1975 (Trio)
- Sweet Hands David Liebman 1975 (A&M/Horizon)
- Passing Dreams Badal Roy 1975 (CD release by Geetika 2002)
- The Last Call David Liebman 1976 (Ego)
- David Liebman and Richie Beirach 1976 (CD release by Mosaic 2004)
- Love Exorcism, Peace Dizzy Reese 1977 (Honey Dew)
- Free Fall Richard Sussman 1978 (CD release by Double Time 2001)
- Arnie Lawrence and Treasure Island 1979 (Doctor Jazz)
- Cosmopolitan Jason Miles 1979 (CD release by Jason Miles Music 2005)
- Con Brio Jerry Bergonzi 1983 (Plug)
- The Ray Jerry Bergonzi and Con Brio 1984 (Not Fat)
- Lonely Woman Frank Kimbrough 1988 (Mapleshade)
- Paul Bley plays Carla Bley Paul Bley 1991 (SteepleChase)
- Coalescence Jeff Williams 1991 (SteepleChase)
- Ugly Beauty Kevin Hays 1991 (SteepleChase)
- Blue in Green Mike Richmond 1991 (SteepleChase)
- Quartet Language Armen Donelian 1992 (CD release by Playscape 2003)
- Lunasea Lee Konitz/Peggy Stern 1992 (Soul Note)
- Rhapsody 1 and 2 Lee Konitz 1993 (Paddlewheel)
- Mercy Angel Lindsey Horner 1994 (Upshot)
- Believers Lindsey Horner 1995 (Koch)
- Jazzblues Jeff Williams 1995 (CD release by Willful Music 1997, Cathexis 1999)
- Pink Cloud Ron McClure 1996 (Naxos)
- Amongst Ourselves Dave Ballou 1997 (SteepleChase)
- Live at the Blue Note Roberta Piket 1998 (Half Note)
- Volition Dave Ballou 1998 (SteepleChase)
- Dig It Lee Konitz/Ted Brown 1999 (SteepleChase)
- Live At Smalls Ethan Iverson/Bill McHenry 2000 (Fresh Sound/New Talent)
- United Ari Ambrose 2000 (SteepleChase)
- City of Dreams Garrison Fewell 2001 (Splasc(h))
- Axiom John O'Gallagher 2002 (CIMP)
- Song For Amy Dave Scott 2003 (SteepleChase)
- Line of Sight John O'Gallagher 2004 (Fresh Sound/New Talent)
- Phrase Six Russ Lossing 2004 (Fresh Sound/New Talent)
- Sonic Pressure Bill McHenry 2005 (Fresh Sound/New Talent)
- Naivete Dave Scott 2006 (SteepleChase)
- The Music of Chance Barry Green 2006 (Moletone)
- Generations Martin Speake 2007 (Pumpkin)
- Dirty Hands John O'Gallagher 2007 (Clean Feed)
- Nonchalant Dave Scott 2007 (SteepleChase)
- Everything Forgets Ryan Blotnick 2008 (Songlines)
- Live At Sweet Rhythm Richard Sussman Quintet 2003, released 2010 (Origin)
- Cry, Want Hans Koller with Bill Frisell 2009, released 2010 (psi)
- Live At Riverhouse Martin Speake 2009, released 2011 (Pumpkin)
- Another Time Jeff Williams 2010, released 2011 (Whirlwind Recordings LTD)
- Hush Nikki Iles, Rufus Reid 2010, released 2011 (Basho Records)
- Chasing The Unicorn Hans Koller Francois Théberge, Percy Pursglove 2008, released 2011 (Babel Label)
- Continuum Richard Sussman Quintet with Randy Breaker, Jerry Bergonzi, Mike Stern, 2012 (Origin)
- Always A First Time, Martin Speake, Mike Outram, 2013 (Pumpkin)
- The Listener, Jeff Williams, 2012 (Whirlwind Recordings Ltd)
- Mike Gibbs + Twelve Play Gil Evans, 2012 (Whirlwind Recordings Ltd)
- Concert In The Amazon Jeff Williams 2013 (Willful Archives limited edition 001)
- First Meeting - Live in London Volume 1, Lee Konitz, Dan Tepfer, Michael Janisch, Jeff Williams, (Whirlwind Recordings Ltd) 2010/2014
- Immune To Clockwork Olie Brice Quintet 2014 (Multikulti MP1026)
- Vuelta Mike Fletcher Trio 2014 (Stoney Lane Records SLR1931)
- Valence John O'Gallagher, Sam Lasserson, Jeff Williams 2014 (Willful Archives limited edition 002)
- Anatta Alex Merritt Quartet, 2015, released 2016 (F-IRE Records)
- Outlier, Jeff Williams, 2015, released 2016 (Whirlwind Recordings Ltd)
- Retrospection, Hans Koller, released 2016, (Stoney Lane Records--3 LP set)
- Off The Ground, Demian Cabaud, (self-released 2016)
- Heart and Soul, Hans Koller, released 2017 (Fresh Sound/New Talent 513)
- Astah, Demian Cabaud, released 2018 (Porta Jazz)
- Lifelike Jeff Williams 2018 (Whirlwind Recordings WR4721)
- Bloom Jeff Williams 2019 (Whirlwind Recordings WR4737)
- Linhas . Gonçalo Marques 2019 (Porta Jazz)
- Lookout Farm at Onkel Po's Carnegie Hall 1975 (released 2019) Jazzline D77071
Leo Genovese Trio (Sept. 2019) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XhL0OZpQqc
RECENT WORK and UPCOMING:
The 2019 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll
Jeff Williams, Bloom (Whirlwind)
Free-bop is a cake-and-eat-it-too situation, where the buoyancy of swing gooses the ingenuity of exploration. This year it found a sweet spot in these 11 quizzical roundabouts. Drummer Jeff Williams, bassist Michael Formanek and pianist Carmen Staaf fleck the music with micro tensions while fully genuflecting to melody. Allure dominates the informality they fashion, their attractive improvs managing to be both heady and charming. —Jim Macnie (#1 pick)
Review of Bloom on NPR's Fresh Air: https://www.npr.org/2019/05/30/728260470/drummer-jeff-williams-matches-good-players-with-the-right-tunes-on-bloom
"Jeff Williams is the kind of drummer whose solo statements are so structurally clear and meticulous you can hear the melody in them. Driving a band, some jazz drummers lay back and swing on the ride cymbal. Jeff Williams gets that same swinging relaxation while darting all over the drum set, pushing and prodding. "
- Kevin Whitehead Fresh Air
"...the group crackles with energy, thanks to Williams' flinty playing. Staff's inventive chord changes and Formanek's deep feeling. To hear how assertively the trio tackles a groove, listen to Williams' "Scrunge/Search Me" with its insistent 7/8 pulse. For straight-up improvisation and melodicism, check out Staaf's blues tune, "New York Landing". Then chase all this down with Formanek's "Ballad of the Weak", the most contemplative piece of the lot."
"For a group this early in its development “Bloom” represents a considerable achievement. Recorded over the course of a single day it documents the already remarkable empathy between the three musicians and embraces a wide variety of jazz styles, while simultaneously establishing a strong group identity. The music is bright, colourful, inventive and consistently interesting." - Read the full review: http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/jeff-williams-bloom/
"The hard groove of “Scattershot,” feisty floating of “Search Me,” and Monkish punctuation of “Short Tune” allow the threesome to milk these devilish switcheroos, revealing that Williams has built a truly crafty cohort to carry out his mission of nurturing spontaneity."
-Jim Macnie, Jazztimes
"Jeff Williams and his new album Bloom makes me rethink all of those reviews where I discuss the idea of the drummer-as-leader in jazz, and how that individual coaxes performances from the others on stage through momentum as well as the arrangements. Williams, who keeps the project simple by using a spare piano trio, with pianist Carmen Staaf and bassist Michael Formanek, uses this opportunity to show what he’s made of behind the kit. This is Williams’ album all the way, full of stellar drumming techniques that astound, all those lovely and challenging time signatures as well as a somewhat guttural approach to beat. Staaf and Formanek are trusted with just one job–keep up.
Jeff Williams, in other words, is a drummer’s drummer. His skill as a drummer is augmented by not only the hardware–he uses a Zildjian ride cymbal from the 1950s for a unique sound–but by ideas that are completely his own. He’s generous with his two cohorts, and he does rely on their color to pull out even the thorniest of melodies, but Bloom is an internal adventure. It’s a way of climbing inside these 11 tracks, mostly composed by the three, to create a sound that relies heavily on bee-bop from the Golden Age as well as freer explorations that focus on sound and beat. It’s in Williams’ head, and it needs to get out.
Bloom is a jazz album with extraordinary energy. It’s not loud or chaotic, even in the darker stretches. Jeff Williams and his drum kit are tight, lucid and streamlined. This is where the simplicity of a piano trio serves the music–each moment along the way holds up and never slides down the hill through the persuasiveness of sheer spontaneity. In a way, this is a bridge to free or experimental jazz, a way to stand on the ledge and look down. If you want to back away, Staaf’s rich piano will grab your hand and guide you back.
The real joy in Bloom is to sit and listen to Jeff Williams. He’s an old veteran, having played with Stan Getz, Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano. He’s passionate about Thelonious Monk. Williams, Staaf and Formanek are an amazing trio–the title of this album is inspired by the synergy the three possess. Bloom is adventurous, as you might have guessed, but it’s also a chance to listen to a drummer who leads through the propulsive streams of ideas, of not looking back at those who are afraid to come along–even if the horizon is familiar to most."
"His CV attests to both his depth and quality...Williams' fifth disc (for Whirlwind) is perhaps his strongest to date. It's always a treat when the 'real thing' comes along and this particular Jeff Williams trio is undoubtedly that."
-Selwyn Harris**** -Jazzwise
Jeff Williams has been makinclassy records like this for years.
If anything he gets better each time.
Be good to yourself and get this asap." -Marlbank
"A drummer led jazz piano trio made up of friends old and new, they know how to kick it out on muscular, improvs that have the kind of angularity that always catches your ear. Pros that know how to use their freedom wisely, this is one of those sets that lets you hear something new each time you play it. Shining as an ensemble, this date knows how to hit all the high notes in fine form." http://www.midwestrecord.com/MWRBlog.html
**** Review from Sea of Tranquility
"Bloom is a nicely balanced and beautifully played jazz album that will surely impress anyone who cares to listen. Let’s hope this trio stays together for album number two."
*Read: The new album Bloom & listen to a track
*Read: 12 page feature article in the May/June 2019 issue of Drumhead magazine: https://www.drumheadmag.com/drumhead-issue/drumhead-issue-73/
*Listen: An Interview with Jeff from Huw Williams
*Listen: An Interview with Jeff on The Jazz Podcast (March 22, 2019) https://www.buzzsprout.com/81894/1004763
*Watch: A 3-part interview with Jeff for
"Jeff Williams has been on a late-career roll - drawing fresh energy and ideas from a pool of younger US and British musicians, and balancing a jazz sensibility honed from the 1960s with a relaxation about letting contemporary improvisers roam. This live recording from London's Vortex catches a superb Williams band in flight on a mix of new and older originals. Jeff Williams' classic-jazz roots go deep, but there's nothing backward-looking about this vividly powerful set."
-John Fordham **** Jazzwise magazine
"Jeff Williams explores evolving improvised forms and shifting emotional terrain... The album reprises six of Williams’ original tunes from three previous albums, performed this time with additional personnel and altered arrangements—to intriguing effect."
-DownBeat Magazine September 2018
"This isn’t a band that’s prepared to sit on its laurels, each performance challenges the musicians and pushes at the boundaries of the written material. A highly worthwhile listening experience." -Ian Mann
“Sounding as real as real gets, Lifelike’s forward thinking drummer/composer Jeff Williams’ heady sextet sure sound like they’re all sitting in on a late night, cramped back room cutting session, with each player challenging, coaxing the other to new heights and horizons.”
-All about Jazz (review #2) read the review:
"Williams's tautly-constructed, inventive tunes, replete with killer hooks, are pivotal to this excellent album, as are the protagonists who execute it with consummate expertise." **** -All About Jazz (review #1)
Read the review:
Lifelike is a March 2018 Recommended New Release
-New York City Jazz Record
"Highly recommended" -Jazz Views
Read the review: http://www.jazzviews.net/jeff-williams---lifelike.html
"Elements of bop, post-bop, avant-garde meet, and the past and the present merge into a natural overall experience, full of vitality." -Musik an Sich
"Fizzing with brilliant solo performances and bursting with hooks."
"Williams directs, guides and coaxes like a traffic cop throughout. Traffic that jams well." -Jazzweekly.com
"Left leaning UK jazz straight from the listening room, this bunch plays it pro and plays it for progressive taste. No pandering to the pots and pans crowd, you can just picture the hipsters nodding their heads approvingly to the beat."
-Chris Spector, Midwest Record
“One of the hippest avant-garde jazz records of 2018, a coherent whole of tension-release,vitality, and drive.” -Jazz Trail
"The sextet rambles, rumbles, and rocks through seven Williams originals, several from earlier albums. There is plenty of fire in the performances, from the powerful drive of "The Interloper" to the relentless tension of "Dream Visitor" to the hard-edged "Double Life." Yet, it's hard not to be seduced by the subtle tempo changes and searching quality of "Under The Radar".
All told, "Lifelike" is full of life, an hour of progressive music not beholding to any genre other than than six musicians fully involved in playing in the moment."
- Step Tempest Monday, March 12, 2018 http://steptempest.blogspot.com/
"The sound is contemporary, forward-looking but it knows where it’s coming from.
Jeff Williams is on a roll recording such high-quality material on Michael Janisch’s label. Let’s hope there is another in the pipeline." -Russell
"Williams has done brilliantly to bring his deep-rooted 1960s jazz heritage forwards through working with players of subsequent generations. He thereby combines a strong sense of the continuing tradition with an imperative to look forwards. It is a compelling combination."
**** "Highly recommended" -Sea of Tranquility
UK Bookings: Raestar Promotions / Danielle White
*Watch videos of four of the songs on Lifelike:
"Williams swings at medium tempo with such easy grace that you could think you were listening to Billy Higgins."
- Richard Williams, thebluemoment.com
A live review: Jeff Williams Quartet, 14th October 2016
"The absence of a piano in a drummer-led quartet is certain to shape the music, but for able and compatible musicians the format opens up an inexhaustible range of expressive possibilities. The Jeff Williams quartet was certainly up to the challenge. Their two sets were fiery, passionate displays, and a study of the way in which a well-rehearsed and closely-knit group enables rather than constrains inventive soloing. What was notable from the start and sustained throughout was that there was no ‘front line’: although alto, tenor, bass and drums played in various configurations and sequences as well as simultaneously, the sheer power of the performances conveyed a musical ‘united front’—a band of equals, but equal on a level that would be difficult to match anywhere. Their technical finesse never became detached from the music, but it would have been difficult to miss. Jeff Williams’ drumming sustained the music—much of it up-tempo—as well propelling it along, with constantly shifting, complex rhythmic patterns and cleverly executed accents. He and bass player Sam Lasserson seemed to be of one mind. John O’Gallagher (alto) and Josh Arcoleo (tenor) both turned in impassioned performances. For all of the hard-driving character of much of the music and the saxophone improvisations, there were still hushed spaces in which one of the horns plus drums or bass would retreat to an intensely lyrical exchange, slowly bring the music back to the boil. There was even a sideways, supercharged take on a capypso, with some lovely soloing and a few humorous exchanges.There was nothing ‘cool’ about this jazz; nothing that didn’t require advanced technique and keen engagement; and for the audience, little not to marvel over." © J. Whitman
Zildjian artist page:
Sound samples and information about the 2016 album Outlier featuring Phil Robson, Josh Arcoleo,
Kit Downes and Sam Lasserson here:
Outlier is a Jazz Journal Top 10 CDs of 2016 pick
"A top notch British band plays superbly throughout with Williams' intelligent but approachable compositions giving them plenty to get their teeth into."
**** -Ian Mann The Jazzmann.com
"Outlier has a classy, lived-in feel
that never glosses over this band's tough, restless spirit in performance."
**** -Jazz Journal
"Powerful, energetic and unsettling jazz with a lot of warmth and soul at its core."
"This is a very good album which benefits from Williams' imaginative compositions and the ensemble's excellent musicianship. It's also a grower, so play frequently for a lasting effect."
-All About Jazz
"The pieces are robustly appealing and the improv – from a crack British band -- is even better. The set pulses with arresting original themes...Outlier references the tradition, but with dynamism, not deference."
"Williams has assembled a talented band of musicians. It is to his credit that he has embraced their abilities making for an excellent recording."
-Bebop Spoken Here
"Drummer Jeff Williams has contributed to many fine recordings over four decades, and the first two sessions he led for London’s Whirlwind Recordings were a particular pleasure. Those featured his US band, a freewheeling pianoless quartet he has kept up as a now-UK resident player who maintains a presence in New York. This third release allows us to savour the British band Williams has worked with in the last few years. It’s a different feel from the quartet, who have a wonderfully loose, open approach, especially on 2013’s live set, The Listener. The presence of Phil Robson on guitar and recent recruit Kit Downes on piano gives most of these pieces, from the opener Outlier on, a denser soundscape. These players are far too subtle to crowd each other, though, and the result is recognisably a different facet of the same artist’s work. Here he brings together elements of music he’s experienced through an impressive career to make new compositions that inspire his cohorts.
So we have pieces inspired directly or indirectly by Joe Henderson (Outlier), and a long tribute to Hermeto Pascoal (Hermeto). There is a distinctly Monkish feel to the guitarless The Interloper, while the leader’s Fender Rhodes adds a touch of Bitches Brew to Dream Visitor, also as it builds reminiscent of the more electric portions of Dave Liebman’s classic Sweet Hands, which featured a young Williams in 1975.
Robson and Downes are on top form. Bassist Sam Lasserson is less prominent than John Herbert in the “New York” quartet, but works seamlessly with Williams’ effortlessly varied drumming. The revelation, though, is tenor saxophonist Josh Arcoleo. His tone seems a little darker than you hear on his own debut album a few years ago, or on a more recent session with John Law. He also deploys at more impassioned moments a grainier, more strongly vocalised timbre, than before. None of this impedes his flow: this is a young player coming into his own.
His sound is a key element in the combination of youth and experience in the band. That exchange between the generations complements the Anglo-US personnel – a distinction harder to draw now with Phil Robson’s recent move to New York, and William’s long-time American sax player John O’Gallagher relocating over here. At this point in jazz’s evolution, accidents of birth matter little. What’s important is that players make strong music together, and this fine group certainly do." -Jon Tourney, London Jazz News
Featuring Duane Eubanks, John O'Gallagher, John Hébert
The Best CDs by All About Jazz
C. Michael Bailey's Best Recordings of 2013
20 of the best UK jazz releases of 2013
"Human scale live recording Williams superbly Motian-like in one of the most considered albums of the year."
The Listener is a logical extension of its two-years-older studio sibling, but it's not the same; these four men have extended the boundaries of their own work and strengthened the connective tissue that binds them. Williams' work with this quartet is special and deserves continued exploration." -All About Jazz
"The Listener's cutting-edge expertise and unwavering emphasis on improvisation makes this thoroughly contemporary music...It's a set of hot-and-cool Ornette Colemanesque themes, hip postbop and slow-burn reflections performed, on this live recording, by Williams' New York quartet." ****
"Music that seethes with intelligence, creativity and zest. This is a glorious record, varied, full of subtleties and surprises. Remember those days when you were in a record shop and your heard a track that was a must-buy and you couldn't rest until you had the CD. The Listener is like that." Jazz Views
The Listener is available at www.whirlwindrecordings.com/the-listener/
where you can also hear sample tracks and read reviews. Or click on the image above.
(also on iTunes, Amazon, etc.)
The promotional video for The Listener on Youtube can be viewed here:
Listen to a June 2013 three-part interview with Jeff conducted by
London Jazz News' Sebastian Scotney
Featuring Duane Eubanks, John O'Gallagher, John Hébert
**** Best CDs of 2012 -Downbeat
Watch the promotional video for
"Jeff Williams has honed a sound that seamlessly blends a sinewy, propulsive rhythmic sense with a masterful appreciation of space and atmosphere. On Another Time, Williams leads a remarkable group through a series of original compositions that are prefect vehicles for the veteran drummer's singular approach, as well as the quartet's consistently inspired improvisations."
--Matthew Miller The New York City Jazz Record
**** "...The ease of movement between ambiguously floating rhythms and snappy polyrhythmic swing is seductive...these elegantly intricate deliberations make for absorbing contemporary jazz."
--John Fordham The Guardian
All About Jazz.com Editors' 10 Best CDs of 2011
CD of the Year (2011) - UK Jazz Radio.com