Williams, Martin, American music critic and writer on music; b. Richmond, Va., Aug. 9, 1924; d. Washington, D.C., April 10, 1992. He studied English literature at the univs. of Va. (B.A., 1948) and Pa. (M.A., 1950), and then was a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia Univ. (1950-56), where he also lectured on English and the humanities at Columbia Coll. (1952-56). Thereafter he lectured on both musical and nonmusical subjects at various institutions of higher learning in the U.S. From 1971 to 1981 he was director of the jazz program division of performing arts at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. After serving as ed. of special projects for the Smithsonian Institution Press (1981-91), he was a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution (from 1991). In 1978 he held a Guggenheim fellowship. He won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for his expertise as a music critic in both 1973 and 1986. While his sympathies ranged widely, Williams became especially known for his erudite writings on jazz.
(all publ. in N.Y): Ed. The Art of Jazz (1959); ed. Jazz Panorama (1962); Where’s the Melody?: A Listener’s Introduction to Jazz (1966); Jazz Masters of New Orleans (1967); Jazz Masters in Transition: 1957-1969 (1970); The Jazz Tradition (1970; 3rd ed., rev., 1993); Jazz Heritage (1985); Jazz in Its Time (1989); Jazz Changes (1992); Hidden in Plain Sight: An Examination of the American Arts (1992).
—Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire