Washington [US]: Mars Williams, an American saxophone player known for his work as a member of the Waitresses and later the Psychedelic Furs, passed away at age 68, reported Variety.
Williams died on Monday.
Williams’ sax was a key element of the Waitresses during the group’s short but impactful two-album tenure in 1980-83, heard on the signature songs ‘Christmas Wrapping,’ ‘Square Pegs’ and ‘I Know What Boys Like’ as well as saxophone-heavy deep cuts like the title track of their ‘Bruiseology’ LP.
According to Variety, the Waitresses’ split roughly coincided with Williams being asked by the Psychedelic Furs asking him to sit in for their absent resident sax man on an overseas tour in 1983, which turned into a tenure that extended through 1989. He then resumed his work with the Furs from 2005 through his final tour dates with the band, which wrapped up just last month in October.
However, the majority of Williams’ work was in jazz, particularly with experimental bands.
Downtown jazz legend John Zorn wrote liner notes for an album Williams did with Hal Russell in 1984 and called him ‘one of the true saxophone players — someone who takes pleasure in the sheer act of blowing the horn.
This tremendous enthusiasm is an essential part of his sound, and it comes through each note every time he plays. Whatever the situation, Mars plays exciting music. In many ways he has succeeded in redefining what versatility means to the modern saxophone player.’
According to his website, Williams has performed live or on record with Billy Idol (on the ‘Rebel Yell’ tour), the Killers, Power Station, Wayne Kramer, Ministry, Bill Laswell, Charlie Hunter, Dirty Projectors, Billy Squier, DJ Logic, John Scoffield, Kurt Elling, Jerry Garcia, and the Untouchables.
The musician was born in Elmhurst, Illinois in 1955 and came up playing classical clarinet for 10 years, under the influence of his trumpet-playing father, before switching to saxophone.
He cited Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker as his first major influences, falling under the sway of Ornette Coleman later on. Williams had been sober for 20 years and was active with helping struggling fellow musicians through the MusiCares program, reported Variety.