At 17 Tony Williams gained attention by joining Miles Davis in what was later dubbed Davis’s Second Great Quintet. Williams was a vital element of the group, called by Davis in his autobiography “the center that the group’s sound revolved around.” His playing helped redefine the role of the jazz rhythm section through the use of polyrhythms and metric modulation, moving between mathematically related tempos and/or time signatures. Meanwhile, he recorded his first two albums as leader for Blue Note label, Life Time (1964) and Spring (1965).
In mid-1976, Williams was a part of a reunion with his colleagues from the Miles Davis band: keyboardist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and saxophonist Wayne Shorter. Davis was in the midst of a six-year hiatus and was “replaced” by Freddie Hubbard. The record was later released as V.S.O.P. The group toured and for several years and a series of live albums were released under the name “V.S.O.P.” or “V.S.O.P.: The Quintet”
In 1985, Williams returned to Blue Note Records and the result was a series of recordings for the label beginning with Foreign Intrigue, which featured the playing of pianist Mulgrew Miller and trumpeter Wallace Roney. Later that year he formed a quintet with Miller, Roney, saxophonist Bill Pierce, and bassist Charnett Moffett. This band played Williams’ compositions almost exclusively.
Photographer Michele Clement began a seven year creative collaboration on these later Blue Note albums; Foreign Intrigue, Civilization, Angel Street, Native Heart, the Story of Neptune and Tokyo Live. They all contained her cover art photography with images based on Tony Williams’s album titles.