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The Tony Williams Lifetime
Genres Jazz-Rock Fusion
Years active 1969—1976
Labels Polydor/PolyGram Records
Columbia/CBS Records
Verve/PolyGram Records
P.S. Productions
Former members
Tony Williams (deceased)
John McLaughlin
Larry Young (deceased)
Jack Bruce
Allan Holdsworth
Tony Newton
Alan Pasqua
Ted Dunbar (deceased)
Warren Smith
Don Alias (deceased)
Juini Booth
Ron Carter
Tom Grant
Bunny Brunel
Todd Carver
Bruce Harris

Patrick O'Hearn
Michael Formanek
Marlon Graves
Mike Hoffmann
Paul Potyen
Gerry Mule

The Tony Williams Lifetime was a jazz-rock fusion group led by jazz drummer Tony Williams.


Original Lineup

The Tony Williams Lifetime was founded in 1969 as a power trio with John McLaughlin on electric guitar, and Larry Young on organ. The band was possibly named for Williams' debut album as a bandleader, Life Time, released on Blue Note in 1964. Its debut album was Emergency! a double album released on Polydor/PolyGram Records in 1969. It was largely rejected by jazz listeners at the time of its release, but it is now looked upon as a fusion classic. Jack Bruce joined the group to provide bass and vocals on its second album, Turn it Over, released in 1970.

McLaughlin left the group and was replaced by Ted Dunbar on its 1971 album, Ego. This album featured Ron Carter on bass and cello, and Warren Smith and Don Alias on percussion. Lifetime gigs around this time featured Juini Booth on bass. Following Larry Young's departure from the band, Tony Williams was the only original member remaining. The fourth and last Lifetime album for Polydor/PolyGram, 1972's The Old Bum's Rush, featured an entirely new personnel and a keyboard-heavy sound. It received poor reviews, and the group was effectively dissolved for several years.

In 1974, Williams put together a new Lifetime featuring Bum's Rush holdovers Webster Lewis on keyboards and Laura 'Tequila' Logan on vocals, along with former Cream/Lifetime bassist Jack Bruce and British guitarist Allan Holdsworth. This lineup, sometimes referred to as Wildlife, recorded an album's worth of material at Atlantis Studio in Stockholm Sweden that has never been officially released.

The New Lifetime

In 1975, Williams put together a quartet he called the New Tony Williams Lifetime featuring bassist Tony Newton, pianist Alan Pasqua, and guitarist Allan Holdsworth. This lineup recorded two albums for Columbia/CBS Records, Believe It in 1975 and Million Dollar Legs in 1976. These albums were reissued on one CD in 1992 as Lifetime: The Collection. After recording Million Dollar Legs, guitarist Allan Holdsworth departed and was replaced by Marlon Graves for the subsequent tour undertaken to support the album.

In 1977, Williams parted ways with Graves, Pasqua, and Newton and formed another Lifetime lineup with entirely new personnel consisting of Mike Hoffmann (lead guitar), Gerry Mule (2nd guitar), Paul Potyen (keyboards), and Michael Formanek (bass). This lineup recorded demos for the Columbia label but had no official releases. It played a small number of live gigs performing material from "Ego" and the two New Lifetime albums "Believe It" and "Million Dollar Legs."

In 1978, Williams released The Joy of Flying, an eclectic solo album featuring a mix of styles and collaborations with Herbie Hancock, Ronnie Montrose, Cecil Taylor, Tom Scott, Stanley Clarke, Michael Brecker, George Benson, and Brian Auger.

In 1979, Williams put together another all-new Lifetime featuring Tod Carver (guitar), Bunny Brunel (bass), Bruce Harris (keyboards), and Tom Grant (keyboards). The band's sound was a major departure from the former New Lifetime's classic fusion: the high-energy shredding heard on Believe It and Million Dollar Legs was largely abandoned in favor of a cerebral and groove-laden approach that emphasized mood and melody over technical virtuosity. As with the 1977 lineup, the 1979 Lifetime played a small number of live gigs and no studio recordings are known to exist. Toward the end of this period, Williams pared down the lineup to a trio and played some gigs with Tom Grant on keyboards and Bunny Brunel on bass.

In 1980, Williams and a new trio incarnation of the Lifetime featuring Patrick O'Hearn on bass (miscredited as Patrick O'Hara) and Tom Grant on keyboards recorded the little known Play or Die album for the German label PS Productions. Stylistically, the recording found Williams returning to high energy keyboard-dominated instrumental fusion reminiscent of the 1975 album On the Mountain by Elvin Jones.

Legacy and tributes

At the time of its release, Emergency! was notably influential on the then-emerging genre of jazz fusion.[1] It was also one of several albums that the members of The Allman Brothers Band listened to regularly early in their career.[2]

John Zorn named the Tony Williams Lifetime as a specific musical inspiration in the liner notes of the Naked City album Radio.

Since the death of Williams in 1997, Jack DeJohnette and John Scofield formed Trio Beyond with Larry Goldings in honour of The Tony Williams Lifetime. They have released one album, Saudades (2006), on the German label ECM.

In 2006, former Lifetime members Allan Holdsworth and Alan Pasqua toured with drummer Chad Wackerman and bassist Jimmy Haslip performing a set comprising original as well as Lifetime material. They recorded a live DVD scheduled for release in early 2007, and future live dates are planned.

In December 2008, guitarist Vernon Reid, organist John Medeski, drummer Cindy Blackman, and former Lifetime member Jack Bruce did a week of shows in Japan as the Tony Williams Lifetime Tribute, playing a set of Lifetime material.


  • 1969: Emergency!
  • 1970: Turn It Over
  • 1971: Ego
  • 1972: The Old Bum's Rush
  • 1974: Wildlife (unreleased)
  • 1975: Believe It
  • 1976: Million Dollar Legs
  • 1978: The Joy of Flying
  • 1980: Play or Die




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