According to a report by Variety, American saxophonist Mars Williams, known for his work with the Waitresses and later as a member of the psychedelic force, has passed away at the age of 68 Williams died on Monday.
During the period of 1980-83, Mars Williams played a significant role as a saxophonist in the American band Waitresses, contributing to their small yet impactful two-album tenure. He was a key element in the band’s signature songs such as “Christmas Rapping,” “Square Pegs,” and “I Know What Boys Like.” His saxophone-heavy work on the title track of their album “Bruiseology” showcased his deep musical prowess.
According to Variety, the division within the Waitresses occurred around the time when Psychedelic Furs invited Williams for an overseas tour in 1983, leading to his absence from the band. This hiatus extended until 1989 when he resumed his extensive career. Subsequently, he resumed his work with the Furs, collaborating until their final tour in October last month.
While Williams’ body of work was predominantly in jazz, especially with experimental bands, his collaboration with Downtown jazz veteran John Zorn in 1984 for an album created with Hal Russell led Zorn to describe him as “a true saxophonist—one who enjoys playing the horn.” His infectious enthusiasm is an integral part of his sound, and his playing brings out the excitement through every note, regardless of the context.
In the realm of jazz, Mars Williams’ versatility continued to redefine the essence of a modern saxophonist. His website mentions collaborations with a diverse range of artists and bands such as Billie Idol (on the “Rebel Yell” tour), The Killers, Power Station, Van Kramer, Ministry, Bill Laswell, Charlie Hunter, Dirty Projectors, Billy Squier, and DJ Logic, both in live performances and recordings.
Born in 1955 in Elmhurst, Illinois, Williams initially played classical oboe influenced by his father, a proficient oboist, for ten years before switching to the saxophone. He cited early influences from jazz legends like Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, and Charlie Parker, later shifting under the sway of Ornette Coleman. Williams, described as having a calm demeanor for much of his 20-year career, actively participated in mentoring fellow musicians through music outreach programs, according to Variety’s report.