Patrick Williams (composer)

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Patrick Williams
Patrick Williams photographed by James DeFrances.jpg
Williams at Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood (2014)
Background information
Birth namePatrick Moody Williams
Born(1939-04-23)April 23, 1939
Bonne Terre, Missouri, U.S.
DiedJuly 25, 2018(2018-07-25) (aged 79)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
GenresFilm score, easy listening, big band
Occupation(s)Composer, arranger, conductor
Years active1960s–2018

Patrick Moody Williams (April 23, 1939 – July 25, 2018) was an 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 five 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. [1] 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 1980 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.

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, as well as 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 Jonathan Swift's writings) read by John Gielgud. For the concert premier, Williams conducted the Yale Philharmonic with Tony Randall narrating.

In 1992, Frank Sinatra approached Williams about conducting, producing and arranging the Duets albums. Williams agreed, and went on to conduct and re-arrange both Duets and Duets II in 1994. Williams often referred to this as one of the fondest accomplishments of his entire career. This was not the first time Williams had worked with Sinatra, however. In the 1980s the two had worked together on concert arrangements, Williams recalled writing an uptempo version of "September in the Rain."

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.

Williams was contracted frequently by the major labels; however, he always managed to find time to share his talents with up and comers he believed in. In 2013, Williams produced and arranged two singles for 23 year-old vocalist James DeFrances. The premise was Big Band, swing covers of current pop songs, similar to what Williams had done for Paul Anka on the latter's 2005 Rock Swings album. DeFrances and Williams subsequently created their covers of "Call Me Maybe" [2] and "Suit & Tie". [3] These sessions marked a reunion of the Sinatra Duets orchestra and production staff at Capitol Records for the first time since 1994. Al Schmitt engineered these sessions and setup a Neumann U47 microphone previously owned by Sinatra himself to add to the nostalgia. Williams' daughter Greer acted as creative director for this project.

Awards and honors

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. [4]

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. [5]


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."

Film credits

Television film credits

Television series credits

This is a partial list.

Selected discography

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  1. "HMI History". Henry Mancini Institute. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  2. Williams, Patrick (2013). James DeFrances Call Me Maybe Single. Hollywood: Capitol Records . Retrieved May 7, 2020.
  3. Williams, Patrick (2013). James DeFrances Suit & Tie Single. Hollywood: Capitol Records . Retrieved May 7, 2020.
  4. "2016 Grammy Awards: Complete list of winners and nominees". Los Angeles Times . February 15, 2016.
  5. Burlingame, Jon (July 25, 2018). "Patrick Williams, Emmy-Winning TV Composer, Dies at 79". Variety. Retrieved September 29, 2021.