23 April 1939
Bonne Terre, St. Francois County, Missouri, United States
25 July 2018 (aged 79)
Patrick Williams (April 23, 1939 – July 25, 2018) was an Oscar nominated American composer, arranger, and conductor who worked in many genres of music, and in film and television.
Born in Missouri, Williams grew up in Connecticut and received a degree in history from Duke University, where he directed the student-run jazz big band, known as the Duke Ambassadors, from 1959 to 1961. Since music was always his first love, he went on to Columbia University to study music composition and conducting, where his passion became his profession. He quickly became busy as an arranger in New York; he moved to California in 1968 to pursue work in the movie and television field while continuing to write and arrange jazz albums.
Williams was also a leader in the music-education field for many years. He served as the Artistic Director of the Henry Mancini Institute — one of the nation's premier training programs for young musicians seeking professional careers in music — for five years. He was Visiting Professor and Composer-in-Residence at the University of Utah and the University of Colorado, which awarded him an honorary doctorate. He also held an honorary doctorate from Duke University and performed and/or lectured at such other institutions as the Berklee College of Music, Indiana University, Texas Christian University, UCLA, USC, and Yale University.
Williams scored more than 200 films, including Breaking Away, for which he received a 1978 Oscar nomination; All of Me, Swing Shift, Cuba, and The Grass Harp.
On television, his music accompanied Columbo, Lou Grant, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, The Streets of San Francisco, and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. His jazz-funk arrangement of The Beatles' "Get Back" was used as the longtime theme for the 1970s sports quiz show Sports Challenge, emceed by Dick Enberg.
Frank Sinatra asked Williams to arrange and conduct his two Duets albums. For clarinetist Eddie Daniels, Williams wrote A Concerto in Swing; for saxophonist Tom Scott, he penned Romances for Jazz Soloist and Orchestra. His Theme For Earth Day was recorded by John Williams and the Boston Pops.
An American Concerto, composed in 1976, was one of the first successful attempts to combine jazz elements with traditional symphonic writing. In addition to An American Concerto his compositions include Gulliver, Romances, Earth Day, Adagio, and August, they have included Suite Memories for trombone and symphony orchestra, which won a 1986 Grammy; Spring Wings, a double concerto for piano and saxophone and symphony orchestra; Appalachian Morning, recorded by the Boston Pops; Memento Mei for solo soprano and orchestra; The Prayer of St. Francis for flute and strings; and others.
Another of Williams' accomplishments was the 1986 orchestral work Gulliver. He spent eight months writing the work, which was recorded by London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, with narration by Larry Gelbart (based on Jonathon Swift's writings) read by John Gielgud. For the concert premier, Williams conducted the Yale Philharmonia with Tony Randall narrating.
In 2016, Deana Martin, daughter of Dean Martin, recorded a new swing album, which Williams scored and conducted. He also wrote five songs for the album: "52nd & Broadway," co-written with Gail Kantor, "I've Been Around," "Hearing Ella Sing,” and “Good Things Grow,” co-written with Arthur Hamilton and “I Know What You Are” co-written with Will Jennings. The album Swing Street was released in 2016.
Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for composing the orchestral work An American Concerto, he won two Grammys for his jazz arrangements, four Emmys for his television music, an Oscar nomination for film composition, and the Richard Kirk Award from BMI. In addition to Williams' 4 Emmy wins, he received 23 nominations.
For his 2015 album Home Suite Home, Williams earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.
Several of Williams' recordings are considered contemporary big-band standards, including Threshold, which won a 1974 Grammy; Too Hip for the Room, a Grammy nominee in 1983; Tenth Avenue, a double Grammy nominee in 1987; and Sinatraland, a tribute to the singer which was Grammy-nominated in 1998. Williams received 16 Grammy nominations for his compositions and arrangements.
Williams died of cancer in Santa Monica, California on July 25, 2018 at the age of 79.
Respected music critic Gene Lees was quoted as saying: "His An American Concerto is, in my opinion, the best mixture of jazz and classical that anybody has ever done. Pat's writing is breathtaking. He's just one of the finest arrangers and composers who ever put pen to paper."
Daniel Cariaga wrote in the Los Angeles Times: " An American Concerto must be one of the most attractive, affecting and original of jazz-symphonic meldings. The style is unrestrained, the tunes ingratiating, the writing expert. What Williams owes to the fair influences of Debussy, Bartok, Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff seems no more and no less than other living composers may owe in those directions. What sets him a cut above others is the individual integration he has achieved out of those influences."
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