Al Williams—drummer, entrepreneur, and promoter of jazz—has a well-earned reputation as a musical mover and shaker. Williams was born in Pasadena, California, and his love affair with music began at the age of eight when he began studying the clarinet. During high school, he played in the school band, the Boys’ Club Concert Band, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Youth Band. At the age of seventeen, he finally convinced his parents to let him pursue his interest in playing drums, which has continued to be his main musical love.
While in college, Williams organized his first band, The Modern Jazz Majors, and their performances at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach launched him into the beginnings of a music career that ultimately branched off into two directions—an entrepreneurial / promotional direction and the development of his own musical artistry as a drummer and bandleader.
As an entrepreneur, he literally brought the excitement of jazz music to Long Beach. In 1978, he opened Long Beach’s first jazz club, The Jazz Safari, near the Queen Mary. Expanding and changing the name in 1986, Williams relocated to downtown Long Beach and his new club, Birdland West, earned acclaim from musicians and critics alike as one of the finest jazz clubs in the nation.
In l987, musical momentum in high gear, he founded Rainbow Promotions and produced the 1st Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival. In August 2013, the Long Beach Jazz Festival celebrated its 26th year and continues to be a major musical event in Southern California.
Williams stays personally connected to music through his drumming—gigging locally and recording. As a talented drummer, his style is crisp and sensitive, reflecting attention to melody and the ability to find the groove that makes it all swing. Whether it be bebop, blues, funk, Latin, smooth or straight ahead jazz, he creates rhythmic artistry that commands listener involvement.
Early experience included touring as a percussionist with the Jennie LeGon Caribbean Dance Troupe. He has performed at the Oklahoma Jazz Festival, the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival. His band, the Al Williams Jazz Society, has performed at the UCLA Jazz Festival, the Central Avenue Jazz Festival, the Long Beach Jazz Festival, the L.B. Museum of Art Summer Concert series, the Russian River Jazz Festival, and the Temecula Jazz Festival. His recording and/or touring experience includes work with jazz greats, Hampton Hawes (Something Special), Leroy Vinnegar (The Kid), Teddy Edwards, Willie Bobo, Kenny Burrell, Eddie Harris, Freddie Hubbard, Sarah Vaughn, and Roy Ayers. On a more bluesy note, he has kept time for Jimmy Witherspoon and Lowell Folsom.
As a bandleader, he has four well-received recordings to his credit, Sandance, Let’s Celebrate, Meeting at the Crossroads and Something to Groove By. The Al Williams Jazz Society is a sextet composed of some of the finest musicians in Southern California, rich in experience and achievement. The group is characterized by high energy and genre diversity, (bebop, fusion, Latin, funk, smooth, and straight-ahead jazz & blues) swinging with a New York edge. The Al Williams Jazz Society currently performs locally at Spaghettini’s in Seal Beach and The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach.
Whether it’s the Al Williams Jazz Society or the Al Williams Trio performing, there is always a loyal following of fans who can count on the unique artistry of his band to generate a great listening experience.