David S. Ware – Onecept (2010)

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by Pico

Within the realm of improvised music saxophone players, Anthony Braxton has few peers, but David S. Ware has to be considered a lifetime member of that exclusive club. A free jazz saxophonist who is also a technician of the highest order, Ware has that rare ability to blur the lines between inside and outside playing. Every time I listen to him play, I hear an extension of John Coltrane’s Meditations, because even as he plays unhinged, it’s passion and fury fueled by solid foundation in bop, blues and modality. Toss in the deep spiritually that gushes from the bell of his horn, and I also find the qualities that distinguish Coltrane’s companion from his late period, Pharaoh Sanders.

Fully rested and recovered from a kidney transplant that knocked him out of performance condition for a good part of last year, Ware went back into the studio not long after his live performance comeback in October (documented on his solo tour de force Saturnian). The product of this one day session went on sale last week as the newest Ware CD Onecept, He had planned to record this earlier in the year to mark fifty years as a sax player, until his failing kidneys demanded his attention for a life or death matter. Though Ware normally records with a quartet and with compositions in hand, he did neither this time. He formed a trio for this occasion, and for the only time except for Corridors And Parallels, Ware and his cohorts created compositions entirely on the spot as the tape rolled. A tricky proposition, but Ware came well prepared, because he brought in Warren Smith on drums and William Parker on bass.

Parker is a longtime musical partner of Ware’s, a mainstay in his critically acclaimed quartet of the 90’s. Smith and Ware have run around in the same musical circles for a while, but as far as I know Smith didn’t appear on Ware’s records until 2009’s Shakti (which also included Parker and guitarist Joe Morris). As previously noted on this space, both are significant leaders in their own right, innovators and boundary stretchers who can handle anything a saxophone colossus like Ware throws at ’em.

Ware has been know to be a master of all kinds of saxes (as well as kalimba and thumb piano), and just as he did for his October comeback solo performance, Ware brought along stritch and a saxello along with his tenor saxophone to the December 2 session. Not many sax players tackle these two lesser-known reed instruments, although Rahsaan Roland Kirk used to play them simultaneously. By introducing these horns into the sessions, he added yet another dimension to improvise over.

That slightly off-kilter alto sound of the stritch is what greets the ears for the opening “Book Of Krittika.” Ware articulates evidently rooted in some key, but without an identifiable melody. Parker picks his spot carefully and attacks with his bowed bass, and Smith also enters with not drums, but a tympani. The intuitive way that Smith blends in with Parker is remarkable. Both Ware and Parker later make way for Smith to solo, and Smith leverages the better defined tonalities of the tympani to create a richly sonic percussive radius that adds to an unusual sound composite with that stritch and Parker’s bass.

“Wheel of Life” pits Ware’s tenor sax and Smith’s drums against Parker’s bass. On both “Celestial” and “Desire Worlds,” Smith’s predilection for the higher timbres on his kit make a perfect fit with Parker’s big, roaring bass. Parker is so percussively adept that Smith is unrestricted by timekeeping and is able to complement Ware’s expressions on tenor sax on the former tune and saxello on the latter tune. The fifteen minute “Astral Earth” is where Ware fully articulates a supernal message, which probably unintentionally starts off with feint echoes of Kirk’s “The Inflated Tear,” and flows along naturally from there. “Savaka” is Ware ruminating on a saxello again as both Parker shifts the mood underneath. On “Bardo,” Ware jousts with Parker and his bowed bass. “Anagami” and “Vata” conclude the record with free form trio jamming fronted by the stritch and saxello, respectively.

David S. Ware has given notice first with Saturnian and now Onecept that with a new kidney, he maintains his old form. The Ware/Parker/Smith trio is a deadly one, and given a license to compose spontaneously makes them even more so.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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