Saturday, December 29, 2012

David S. Ware: Pastor at the Church of Jazz

Avant garde sax man David S. Ware passed away in October.  I confess that I didn't find out about his passing until last week.  NPR had a tribute to Ware and Lol Coxhill and Von Freeman, all of whom we lost last year.  I would note that I got to hear Freeman in Chicago a few years back, in a small club just north of the river.  

I don't know Coxhill, but I do have a healthy collection of David S. Ware in my library.  Most of Ware's music is what I call Page Four Jazz.  Someone who likes hard bop (Page Three) will recognize Page Four as music, but may find it very challenging.  Ware played a very muscular, frenetic horn.  You'll like it if you like the scratchy texture of his sax (I do) and if the way he slices and reassembles musical ideas does that avant garde thing to you (it does to me).  

You can watch a very interesting short film about David S. Ware produced by the David Lynch Foundation.   It includes Ware's voice along with William Parker.  "Now Jazz is one of the world's greatest churches, for sure," Ware tells us.  Don't miss it.  You can also read a fine obituary at the Guardian

Ware recorded Sonny Rollins' 'Freedom Suite' twice, once on an album of that title and again on Live In The World, a splendid avant garde document by the David S. Ware Quartet.  Either is a good place to start for the wary looking for something accessible.  These are fine examples of jazz in a classical format.  I am playing the third movement from the Freedom Suite album.  Here are the usual suspects:
I am also playing 'Mikuro's Blues' from Go See The World, the studio album released just as the tour documented in the album above was going.  It is a very accessible blues number and gives you a pretty good idea of Ware's brilliance.  I just downloaded this recording tonight, so I can't give you a review.  No surprises on the score card:
 Meanwhile, what I really want to talk about is an Andrew Cyrille album that features Ware: Special People (1980).  I was already up to the eyelids deep in love with Cyrille.  He is one drummer who can lead a band the way a catcher directs the diamond.  Special People is so bloody good I can't believe I didn't have it until today.  Every single number is toe curling delicious.  Here is the lineup:
Just from the first listen, I would have guessed that Nick De Geronimo was the leader.  His bass supports the other instruments the way the treads support an armored personnel carrier.  He knows just how to find his footing in each musical topography and how to reach for the delicious push.  Cyrille's percussion frames the music and keeps the horns on top the tread.  Ware is magnificent, playing with the heart of a war horse.  The same goes for Ted Daniels on brass, who is lighter afoot but just as poetic.  This album is simply superb.  Get the darn thing!

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