May 2, 2005
MATTHEW SHIPP/WILLIAM PARKER/GUILLERMO E BROWN TRIO.
Splasc(H) Records CDH 862.2
Who would have believed at this late date that underneath his blustery interior melodic and romantic impulses inhabit the soul of Free Jazz firebrand tenor saxophonist David S. Ware? His regular sidemen to name three individuals.
This CD offers eight of the reedists original compositions interpreted by pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker and drummer Guillermo E. Brown. At its conclusion, without knowing the writers identity, you might link the intense pieces are some of pianist Herbie Nichols tougher lines or even unknown modernistic Duke Ellington compositions.
Part of this can be connected to the dexterity of Shipp, who when hes really on, can mix the most advanced keyboard impulses with glancing, sometimes split-second references to earlier jazz masters. But it could also be that without Wares oversized presence spewing out frenetic, declamatory saxophone inflections, his compositions shape becomes clearer. In truth, Ware isnt as nuanced a soloist as even Charles Gayle is. Yet when pared to their compositional kernels, these tunes reveal their inner strength, swing, and dare one say beauty?
Also, because the CD is called PLAYS WARE, not sounds of the trio, Parker and Shipp two of improvs most bravura performers subordinate their massive technical prowess to the themes. Brown, the most recent members of Wares quartet keeps himself under wraps, limiting himself to short solos. Elsewhere his constrained snare and cymbal work, often with brushes, stays out of the way. As Ware drummers go, Brown adds more than Whit Dickey may have, though Susie Ibarra would probably have created more unusual textures here.
Among the themes are ones that call upon Shipps command of the gospel idiom, impressionistic romanticism and the sort of sharp swing-to-bop cadenzas that bring Nichols work to mind. Some detour into expositions that could come from Broadway show themes, and theres one head that may be a twin of Chicagos Color My World.
Sometimes the pianist uses his metronomic time sense and a weighty touch to rapidly produce ornamental variations on the primary melody. In other cases hell sound seemingly endless arpeggios and near-swing riffs that circumscribe one another. Or if need be, he can lighten his tone to skitter across the keys.
Right beside him, as they have done in so in many projects over more than a dozen years, is Parker. Besides adding the bowed intensity of his preferred sul ponticello licks, the bassist uses smooth arco action and thick pizzicato springs to complement or encourage the pianists technique. One precise jagged pluck or buzzing spiccato swish can add as much as a multitude of positions from another bass man. Together, the two produce a definitive, dense climax to these tunes. Meantime, Browns stick rattling, cymbal shakes or tempo shifting complete the picture.
Compositional interpretations are sometime easier to grasp than the original versions and this CD should impress those who have followed Wares work, and those who merely tolerate it. Parker notes that Ware has written over 100 compositions for his quartet alone. If other recreations of his work are at the same high standard as PLAYS WARE, in future the saxophonist could end up like Liszt or Chopin: a performer celebrated more for his compositions than his performing.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Manus Ideal 2. Godspelized 3. Dinosauria 4. Lexicon 5. Reign of Peace 6. Wisdom Through Time 7. Dao Forms 8. Mystic March
Personnel: Matthew Shipp (piano); William Parker (bass); Guillermo E. Brown (drums)