Having shaped the course of jazz music as bassist for Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi Sextet in the 1960s and early ‘70s, Buster Williams continues to contribute to the jazz sphere with bandmates Lenny White, Stefon Harris and Geri Allen. A TD Victoria International JazzFest show at the Dave Dunnet theatre will see the unveiling of the jazz icon’s latest music.
Williams reflects on his career and looks forward to visiting Victoria, the city being one of his favourites in Canada. Now 75, Williams entered music at 14 and was a member of the Miles Davis Quintet in his late teenage years. He went on to play with 20th century stars such as Gene Ammons, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, Dakota Staton, Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson, among many more.
“My opportunity to play with these singers was so valuable to me and taught me … [a] sort of gentleness and a real affinity toward melody. Good singers require that you play in tune. Sarah Vaughan had perfect pitch, so she heard every note that you played,” Williams said, laughing that he would practice diligently every night after working with Vaughan. “Each one [of the singers] added to my development.”
The Buster Williams Quartet formed in 1990 after Williams’ longtime career as sideman and bassist in bands. He has toured with his own band and others since.
“My band gives me an opportunity to hear the music that I write. That’s a great reward,” said Williams. “Hearing [these great musicians’] interpretations of this great music on a nightly basis is just a thrill.”
According to Williams, composing music and touring is the best way to stay young. “It’s the best way to really understand gratitude and appreciation, and the greatest expression of democracy.”
Despite his experience with high-profile musicians, he maintains that each opportunity to play is as welcome as any other, and expresses his excitement to perform at the Dave Dunnet Theatre. Other stops on Buster Williams Quartet’s tour include Winnipeg, Los Angeles, Seattle, Vancouver, France, Austria and Italy.
“[People sometimes ask], ‘what’s your favourite place to play?’ Anywhere that I get an opportunity to play. ‘What’s your favourite audience?’ The one that came out to see me.”
The Buster Williams Quartet will play at the Dave Dunnet Community Theatre June 29. Tickets are available at the Victoria Jazz Society, #202 – 345 Quebec St.; Lyle’s Place, 770 Yates St. and the Royal & McPherson Box Office, 3 Centennial Square.
Show starts at 8 p.m.