Tom Williams Day

April 12, 1962 – August 7, 2023

 A tribute to the hard bop trumpeter

Trumpeter Tom Williams passed away on August 7, 2023 at the age of 61.

He was born on Apr. 12, 1962 in Baltimore, Maryland and studied both trumpet and drums while growing up.

The son of a music teacher, Williams was a professional musician by the time he was in high school.

After studying at Townson State University, Williams was a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra (when it was led by Mercer Ellington) for three years and then worked with Ray Charles, Bill Hardman, Larry Willis, Charlie Rouse, Dizzy Gillespie, Jackie McLean and Hank Jones.

In 1987 he enlisted in the Army where he was a member of the U.S. Army Field Band’s Jazz Ambassadors and Army Blues.

In 1991 Williams was the second place winner in the first Louis Armstrong International Jazz Trumpet Competition.

While in the service, he occasionally was able to travel to New York for recordings including dates with Jimmy Heath, Steve Wilson, Donald Brown, Ron Holloway and Larry Willis, and two albums (Introducing Tom Williams and Straight Street) that he led for the Criss Cross label.

After he left the military, Williams worked in show bands and performed with major straight ahead performers both on trumpet and drums.

Tom Williams worked as an influential educator including being the Jazz Drum Set instructor at Howard Community College and the Jazz Trumpet instructor at the University of Maryland and also recorded with Gary Bartz, the Heath Brothers, and as a drummer with his group InterPlay .

Here is Williams playing “Take The ‘A’ Train” in a group led by tenor-saxophonist Jimmy Heath at a Baltimore concert; Heath, trumpeter Dontae Winslow, and tenor-saxophonist Whit Williams solo before Tom Williams makes a strong statement on flugelhorn while being accompanied by keyboadist Tim Murphy, bassist Geoff Harper and drummer John Lamkin III.

-Scott Yanow