John Williams (pianist)

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John Thomas Williams (January 28, 1929 – December 2018) was an American jazz pianist.

Early life[edit]

Williams was born in Windsor, Vermont on January 28, 1929.[1] He began playing piano at age eight and joined a local ensemble at twelve; he also learned organ, playing in church as a teenager.[1] In March 1945, he embarked on a six-month tour as a member of Mal Hallett's band, having not yet completed high school.[1]

Later life and career[edit]

Late in the 1940s he played with Johnny Bothwell and Teddy Kotick, and at the end of the decade he relocated from Vermont to New York City.[1] After playing a gig with Charlie Parker at the end of 1950, he served in the military during the Korean War (1951–53), playing low brass in Army bands.[1] After the war, he returned to New York, where he enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music, formed his own trio ensemble, and recorded widely as a sideman.[1] His associations around this time included Charlie Barnet, Stan Getz, Sal Salvador, Charlie Mariano, Cannonball Adderley, Jimmy Cleveland, Phil Woods, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Jimmy Raney, and Lon Norman.[1]

Williams also recorded two albums as a leader for EmArcy Records in the mid-1950s.[2] His eponymous debut was a trio album, with bassist Bill Anthony and drummer Frank Isola, and was recorded in 1954.[3] The follow up was also a trio record, with various other musicians, and was made in 1955.[3] The two were released on one CD by Fresh Sound.[3]

Disillusioned with the jazz life in New York, Williams decided to move to Florida, where he played for a time as a pianist in Miami Beach, then receded from performance.[1] He worked as a city commissioner from 1971 to 1991 and held a position in a banking firm while still occasionally playing locally.[1] He also was a regular performer at an annual music festival in Hollywood, Florida, where he played with Bob Brookmeyer, Buddy DeFranco, Terry Gibbs, and Scott Hamilton.[1] In 1987, he appeared with Spike Robinson in Clearwater, Florida.[1] This appearance, plus a piece published in Jazz Journal International in 1994, "helped bring Williams back to the attention of the jazz world",[4] and he recorded two albums in the 1990s.[2] He died on December 14[5] or 15, 2018.[2]

Playing style[edit]

Williams was "strongly influenced by Bud Powell and Horace Silver".[2] AllMusic described him as "Inventive, forceful, with a commanding sense of swing and, importantly, a workmanlike view of the true role of the pianist in both mainstream and bop settings".[4]


As leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1954 John Williams EmArcy Trio, with Bill Anthony (bass), Frank Isola (drums)[3]
1955 John Williams Trio EmArcy Trio[3]
1990s? Welcome Back Marshmallow With Spike Robinson (tenor sax), Jeff Grubbs (bass), Frank Isola (drums)[6]

As sideman[edit]

Year recorded Leader Title Label
1953 Stan Getz Interpretations by the Stan Getz Quintet Norgran[7]
1953 Stan Getz Interpretations by the Stan Getz Quintet #2 Norgran[8]
1953–54 Stan Getz Interpretations by the Stan Getz Quintet #3 Norgran[9]
1954 Stan Getz Stan Getz at The Shrine Norgran[1]
1955 Phil Woods Woodlore Prestige[1]
1955 Cannonball Adderley Julian "Cannonball" Adderley EmArcy[10]
1998 Spike Robinson The C.T.S. Session Hep[11][12]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Kernfeld, Barry (2003), Williams, John (ii), Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, retrieved January 4, 2019, (Subscription required (help))
  2. ^ a b c d Myers, Marc (December 18, 2018). "John Thms. Williams (1929–2018)".
  3. ^ a b c d e Ramsey, Doug (April 18, 2006). "THAT John Williams". Rifftides.
  4. ^ a b "John Williams". AllMusic. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  5. ^ Ramsey, Doug (December 20, 2018). "John Williams Has Died". Rifftides.
  6. ^ "Artists". Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  7. ^ "Stan Getz Catalog: norgran-mgn-1000". Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  8. ^ "Stan Getz Catalog: norgran-mgn-1008". Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  9. ^ "Stan Getz Catalog: norgran-mgn-1029". Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  10. ^ Nastos, Michael G. "Cannonball Adderley: Julian "Cannonball" Adderley". AllMusic. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  11. ^ Ramsey, Doug (April 20, 2006). "Comments: John Williams". Rifftides.
  12. ^ Chell, Samuel (November 8, 2006). "Spike Robinson: The CTS Session". All About Jazz.