Irv Williams

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Irv Williams
Birth name Irvin Williams
Born (1919-08-17) August 17, 1919 (age 95)
Genres Jazz, Swing, Blues
Occupation(s) saxophonist, composer
Instruments Saxophone
Years active 1925 - today

Irv Williams (born August 9, 1919) is an African American jazz saxophonist and composer. Throughout his nine-decade career, Williams has focused on the Great American Songbook and the tenor sax as a solo vehicle.

Musical history[edit]

His first instrument was the violin before switching to the clarinet and then to the tenor saxophone.[1]

In 1942 Williams moved to Saint Paul, (Minnesota). In his early career, he played in bands behind Ella Fitzgerald, Fletcher Henderson, Mary Lou Williams, and Billy Eckstine at venues such as the Apollo Theater or the Howard Theater. Turning down invitations to go on tour with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, or Louis Armstrong, he chose to stay and become part of the Twin Cities’s history.[1] While teaching in Public Schools in St. Paul, he played with the late Reginald Buckner. In the Twin Cities, Williams has played at every jazz venue, past and present, including the old Flame Bar where he was often back to back with such stars as Sarah Vaughn, Dizzy Gillespie, and Johnny Hodges.

Since his 84th birthday, Williams came up with a stream of releases: "That’s All" (2004), "Dedicated to You" (2005), followed by one of his most acclaimed, "Duo" (2006) with piano partner Peter Schimke, and "Finality" (2008). In 2011, Williams recorded "Duke's Mixture", a quintet with Peter Schimke, Steve Blons, Billy Peterson and Jay Epstein, the set list includes five original compositions from Williams and his vocal debut on “Until the Real Thing Comes Along,” along with a pair of Irving Berlin standards and a pair of blues tunes.

To date Irv Williams has a regular weekly gig at the Dakota Jazz Club in downtown Minneapolis.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Williams has nine children from two marriages.[1]

Honors and Awards[edit]

  • 1984, he was the first jazz musician to be honored by the State of Minnesota with his own "Irv Williams Day".
  • 1990, his picture appeared on the "Celebrate Minnesota" official state map
  • 1995, he was named an Arts Midwest Jazz Master
  • 2005, At the KBEM Winter Jazz Festival, Irv was one of three recipients of Lifetime Achievement Awards.[3][4]
  • 2010, his picture appeared on the Saint Paul Almanac cover
  • he has been inducted into the Minnesota Jazz Hall of Fame
  • his former saxophone has been integrated into the "Minnesota’s Greatest Generation" exhibit at the Minnesota History Center


  • Keep the Music Playing (1994)
  • Peace, with Strings (1996)
  • STOP Look and Listen (2000)
  • Encore (2001)
  • That’s All (2004)
  • Dedicated To You CD (2005)
  • Duo - Irv Williams and Peter Schimke (2006)
  • Finality (2008)
  • Duke’s Mixture (2011)
  • Then Was Then, Now Is Now (2014)
  • Pinnacle - Irv Williams Trio (2015) [5]


  • 2012, featured in Arts and the Mind, a documentary on PBS[6]
  • 2012, The Funkytown Movie, music documentary by megabien entertainment[7]


External links[edit]