David "Happy" Williams

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David "Happy" Williams
David Williams, Elvin Jones and Ryo Kawasaki.jpg
David "Happy" Williams, Elvin Jones and Ryo Kawasaki in 1976
Background information
Birth name David Larry Williams
Also known as Happy Williams
Born Trinidad
Genres Jazz; pan jazz
Instruments Double bass

David "Happy" Williams is a US-based Trinidadian jazz double-bassist, who has been a long-time member of Cedar Walton's group. Williams has also worked with many other notable musicians, including Woody Shaw, Bobby Hutcherson, Stan Getz, Kenny Barron, Duke Jordan, Monty Alexander, Frank Morgan, Hank Jones, Charles McPherson, Larry Willis, George Cables, Abdullah Ibrahim, David "Fathead" Newman, Sonny Fortune, John Hicks, Louis Hayes, Jackie McLean, Clifford Jordan, Abbey Lincoln, Ernestine Anderson, and Kathleen Battle.[1]

Background and career[edit]

David Larry Williams[2] was born in Woodbrook, Port of Spain, Trinidad.[3] His father, John "Buddy" Williams,[4] was a bass player and one of Trinidad's best-known bandleaders of the 1940s and 1950s.[5][1][6] David started playing music at the age of five, initially on piano, then violin and steelpan.[1] He attended Tranquillity Boys School, Port of Spain,[3] and at the age of 12 began playing bass in earnest. As a teenager, he played pan in the Invaders steelband.[3][7] When his sister went to London on scholarship to study piano, David joined her there in 1962,[8] studying bass for a year at the London College of Music.[1] He recalls, "I started getting offers and gigs, I was working in nightclubs, you know, wherever I could play, pubs, it didn't matter, and I had this desire, this thing to just get out there and play."[8]

Williams went to New York City in 1969 on what was intended to be a two-week visit but decided to stay on when he was offered work after sitting in on a gig with Grachan Moncur in place of Jimmy Garrison.[9] Following leads from Ron Carter, Williams began working with Gap and Chuck Mangione, and then went to Washington, DC, where he became Roberta Flack's bass player for two years, also working with Donny Hathaway during that time.[1]

Williams' first album as a leader, Soul is Free, was released in 1979; one of the compositions from it, "Out of the Sheets, Into the Streets", was used in the 1983 Eddie Murphy film Trading Places.[1][10][11]

In 1982 he became a member of the Cedar Walton Trio alongside Billy Higgins (whom Williams first met around 1973),[12] on the death of Sam Jones, for whom he had occasionally subbed.[1] They became "One of the most regarded trios in contemporary acoustic Jazz".[13]

In recent years, Williams has also written and recorded music inspired by the Trinidadian steelpan and calypso, notably the "pan jazz" album Reid, Wright and be Happy (2003), alongside Ron Reid and Orville Wright.[14]


As leader[edit]

  • Soul is Free (AVI Records, 1978)
  • Up Front (Timeless, 1986)
  • Duo (Red, 1990) with Cedar Walton [originally released as Off Minor]
  • Rhythm of the Street (Rots Records, 2000)
  • Ping Pong Obsession (Rots Records, 2001)
  • The Prize (Rots Records, 2002)
  • The Spirit (Rots Records, 2003)
  • Reid, Wright and Be Happy (Sanch, 2003)
  • The Message (Rots Records, 2004)
  • Move Your Furniture (Rots Records, 2004)
  • The Licentious Hour (Rots Records, 2005)
  • Feel the Passion (featuring Frankie McIntosh; 2010)

As sideman[edit]

With Cedar Walton

With Kenny Barron

With Slide Hampton

  • Roots (Criss Cross, 1985)

With Louis Hayes

With Billy Higgins

With Elvin Jones

With Sam Jones

With Warne Marsh

With David Fathead Newman

  • Heads Up (Atlantic, 1986)
  • Live at the Village Vanguard (Atlantic, 1988)
  • Davey Blue (Telarc, 2002)

With Art Pepper

With Larry Willis

  • How Do You Keep the Music Playing (SteepleChase, 1992)
  • Tribute to Someone (Audio Quest, 1994)

With Abdullah Ibrahim

With Voices of East Harlem

  • Live (Just Sun, 1973)
  • Can You Feel It (1974)

With Art Pepper

  • Art Pepper with Duke Jordan in Copenhagen (Tofrec, 1981)
  • Final Art Last Concert (Tofrec, 1982)
  • Art Pepper: Unreleased Art, Vol. 1 (APM 2006)

With Michael Carvin

  • Revelation (Muse, 1991)
  • Each One Teach One (Muse, 1994)

With Freddy Cole

  • Love Makes the Changes (Fantasy, 1998)

With Jackie McLean

  • Nature Boy (Something Else, 1999)

With Frank Morgan

  • Lovesome Thing (Antilles, 1990)

With Freddie Hubbard

With Roberta Flack

  • Children of The Night (Atlantic, 1970)

With James Moody, Clark Terry, Elvin Jones

  • Summit Meeting (Vanguard, 1977)

With Donald Byrd and the Blackbyrds

  • (Fantasy, 1973)

With David Benoit

  • Heavier Than Yesterday (AVI, 1977)

With Herb Alpert & Hugh Masekela

  • (A & M, 1978)

With Billy Higgins

  • Quintet (Sweet Basil, 1993)

With Clifford Jordan Big Band

With George Cables

  • Old Wine New Bottles (Atlas, 1982)
  • Wonderful L A (Atlas, 1982)

With Jermaine Jackson

  • Jermaine (Motown, 1980)

With Joyce

  • Language and Love (Polygram, 1991)

With Vanessa Rubin

  • Girl Talk (Telarc, 1999)

With Steve Grossman Love is The Thing (Red, 1986)

With Liberace

  • My Friends Call Me Lee (A V I, 1978)

With Dave Pike

  • Pike's Groove (Criss Cross, 1986)

With Sam Jones

  • Cello Again (Xanadu, 1976)

With Charles Davis

With Louis Hayes

  • Breath of Life (Muse, 1974)

With Duke Jordan

  • Murray Hill Caper (1973)

With David Lasley

  • Missing Twenty Grand (1982)

With Charles McPherson

  • But Beautiful (Venus, 2003)

With Terumasa Hino

  • Blue Smiles (Something Else, 1992)

With Sonny Fortune

  • Monk's Mood (Kennox, 1993)

With Janis Siegel

  • I Wish You Love (Telarc, 2002)

With Ernest Ranglin

  • Memories of Barber Mack (Island, 1997)

With David Hazeltine

  • Modern Standards (Sharp Nine, 2005)

With One for All

  • Killer Joe (Venus Records, 2005)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Biography". Davidhappywilliams.com. Retrieved April 28, 2014. 
  2. ^ "David Williams". Discogs. Retrieved April 28, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Ronald C. Emrit, David Williams". Best of Trinidad.
  4. ^ "Le Jazz Primitif from Trinidad - Rupert Clemendore and John Buddy Williams". Smithsonian Folkways.
  5. ^ Herbie Miller, "Syncopating Rhythms: Jazz and Caribbean Culture", p. 24.
  6. ^ "NEA Jazz Master: Pianist Cedar Walton". Jazmuzic.com. May 2, 2012. Retrieved April 28, 2014. 
  7. ^ Ray Funk and Jeannine Remy, "Invaders: the pan yard under the breadfruit tree", Caribbean Beat, Issue 101 (January/February 2010).
  8. ^ a b Chantal Esdelle (May 29, 2010). "Hanging With Happy". Chantalesdelle.wordpress.com. Retrieved April 28, 2014. 
  9. ^ Ethan Iverson, "Interview with David Williams (for Cedar Walton)", Do the Math, November 11, 2013.
  10. ^ "Dave Williams Out of the sheets". YouTube.
  11. ^ "Trading Places Soundtrack (1983) OST".
  12. ^ Bill Milkowski, "Drum 'n' Bassists", JazzTimes, April 2000.
  13. ^ Mark Gilbert, Jazz Journal.
  14. ^ Mark Fraser, "Ron reads the music right", Trinidad Express, 8 April 2013.

External links[edit]