Born: January, 1965 Primary Instrument: Drums
BIO - The Short Version
Greg Williamson, drummer, percussionist and composer, has toured as a member of the swinging big bands of Woody Herman, Glenn Miller and Harry James. He has appeared on over 30 CDs, including the recent JazzIn It by singer Dee Daniels, which charted #1 across Canada. He travelled several years with Steve Allen and Tonight Show Live with legendary pianist Paul Smith. He has performed with Seattle's own and widely renown vocalist Ernestine Anderson since 1991, acting in later years as her musical director. He has led his own groups ranging from Greg Williamson Quartet to the Pony Boy All-Star Big Band, and recently formed an organ-quartet The Young Lizards bringing jazz sounds to the alt-club scene. He also focuses on large scale multi-media projects, including the award winning Conversations & Deconstructions the 1909 AYP - Jazz Music For Seattle's World's Fair. Greg's early experiences came from hanging out with the cats on the scene - legendary jazzers like Buddy Catlett, Ray Brown, Red Kelly, Bill Ramsay and Jay Thomas. In 1994 he founded Pony Boy Records which has produced 40 releases, the annual Pony Boy Records Jazz Picnic, and the weekly series Jazz & Sushi. He is the musical director for Boxley's Jazz Club in North Bend, WA, which features music nightly, and hopes to continue to foster jazz music, and hang out with the cats on the scene
BIO - The Long Version
Greg Williamson began playing drums and piano at an early age, listening to the record collection of his parents, always returning to that curious double live LP by Thelonious Monk. His mother still takes credit for bringing him - at an age less than one year - to concerts of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong in 1965. By the time he hit high school, ha had won several college festival awards. In 1986 he gained a degree in jazz studies from Western Washington University, also studying classical percussion & composition. During this time he played many musicals, big band shows, local gigs, and was principal percussion, timpanist and clinician with the Seattle Youth Symphony.
Woody Herman's Thundering Herd
Woody, Glenn & Harry While in college, he also began hanging out and mentoring with jazz drummers Jeff Hamilton and Mel Lewis - and bassists John Clayton and Ray Brown, soaking up the lineage of jazz. Relocating to Los Angeles, he was very quickly touring with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, then Woody Herman's Young Thundering Herd, and then the Harry James Orchestra. Greg counts these years of road band experience and performing behind guest artists as priceless and immeasurable. Wonderful people like Rosemary Clooney, The Mills Brothers, Anita O'Day, Helen Forest, Helen O'Connell, Art Lund, and others.
Big Bad Groove @ Jazz Alley
Seattle & Big Bad Groove In 1990 he returned to Seattle as a home base, and continued to do occasional tours while bursting into the fertile Seattle music scene. He began groups of his own, drawing on some of the fine musicians from his road band associations. The Big Bad Groove Society is a sextet with flexible horn instrumentation for which he also writes and arranges, tapping into the big band sound with a small group flexibility. The group included friend and Ernestine Anderson pianist Larry Fuller (later to join Jeff Hamilton's Trio & Ray Brown's Trio).
w/ Ernestine @ Concord Jazz Festival
Ernestine & Steve-a-rino He also began performing, touring and recording with jazz singer, Downbeat Poll winner, and Grammy nominated vocalist Ernestine Anderson. Still working with Ernestine, he has toured Japan numerous times, Brazil, and all around the US . Several years later he also began working with legendary pianist and funnyman Steve Allen, doing night club dates, big band shows, Las Vegas showrooms, and a revival of the original Tonight Show - a touring ensemble including Louis Nye and Bill Jose Jimenez Dana, working with the great pianist Paul Smith, a veteran of Ella Fitzgerald, CBS Orchestra, and many others. This again gave more opportunities for performing with the great stars of jazz, swing, and film. Joe Williams, Steve & Edie, Buddy Grecco, and more. His collective played with list is extensive.
Jazz Times Year in Review Critics Picks 2002 Pony Boy Records The release of a Big Bad Groove Society recording in 1994 saw the formation of Pony Boy Records, an affable moniker for promotion and distribution. The title Live at Kellys became the first of many live recordings at the home club of bassist and raconteur Red Kelly. Red became a personal link to many of the characters of 50's big bands' heyday - the same big bands which Greg had played 30 years later.
Pony Boy Records, a label for the fun of jazz, became immediately popular. With other musicians of like mind wanting to be part of the stable of artists, Pony Boy has grown to more than 30 releases, including Williamson's highly regarded Swing Your Big Head enhanced-CD, and his new Double Sax Quintet - listed in the Jazz Times Year in Review Critics Picks 2002 (Top Ten - Harvey Siders). He also leads the highly stabled Pony Boy All-Star Big Band.
Greg's development of skills in graphic arts, promotion, and digital audio recording/mastering has allowed Pony Boy Records to help jazz artists with the tools of music. Live performance is the target of the effort - promoting concerts, tours and gigs.
Play Jazz - Tour - Swing Hard Greg played many yearswith Brian Nova, a swinging guitarist and protégé of jazz legends Herb Ellis and Joe Pass. This group toured extensively, including month-long annual trips through Japan. The group performed with other great artists, including rock and blues superstar Steve Miller. Greg also spent several years with Sinatra-style wise guy HB Radke, performing for swooning swing-dancers, national sports crowds, and even as a personality on national shock-jock radio with Tom Leykis. Altogether Greg has appeared on more than 40 CDs, and can often be heard backing up a variety singers and jazzers up and down the west coast.
IAJE 2002 w/Jeff Hamilton & Rich Thompson Jazz Education Greg has continued to teach drums and jazz privately and in clinics, focusing on musicality and the lineage of big band and jazz. His technique is relaxed and natural, bouncing the stick to get a warmth of sound from good instruments, digging on time and feel. He draws from stories and experience of drummers and musicians before him - and draws comparisons to some classical technique.
He participated in the 2002 International Association of Jazz Educaters Convention and coached the National Community College Jazz Ensemble rhythm section. He enjoys clinics and rehearsing school groups; imparting his sense of joy of music to students; and the drive, dance, and texture available to performers of all kinds.
Playing Cymbals in Tokyo Toolbox Greg Williamson endorses and plays Garcia snare drums. He endorses the wonderful Bosphorus cymbals (Hammer & Master Series). He also uses several different Gretsch drum sets, vintage 1980's with DW hardware. Moving from calf-skin heads, he now employs several Remo variations. Sticks and brushes from RegalTip (Hamilton and Elvin), and Hinger Timpani mallets. He uses Digidesign Pro Tools on the road and in the studio, with Waves plug-ins, as well as many Macintosh hardware products.
Awards:• Earshot Jazz Golden Ear Award "For Significant and Enduring Contributions to the Seattle Jazz Scene" to Greg Williamson and Pony Boy Records Jazz Picnic • Earshot Jazz Golden Ear Award Nomination "Conversations & Deconstructions" CD and Concert
Williamson drives with a big band energy. - Cadence Review
Capturing a groove and sticking with it, a nimble rhythm section... how could you miss? -Jazz Times
High on the rhythmic and melodic slam-o-meter... with lushness and rich lustre.- The Rocket
His enthusiasm is infectious... something very special. - Earshot Jazz
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Willing to teach:
Advanced students only.