|J A Z Z W O R D R E V I E W S
|Reviews that mention David S. Ware
Centering: Unreleased Early Recordings 1976–1987
NoBusiness NBCD 42-47
Something In the Air: Discovering Long Hidden Advanced Jazz
By Ken Waxman
When New York’s now justly famous, Vision Festival first took place in 1996 committed jazz fans greeted the event as if they were witnessing a full-fledged musical resurrection. So many advanced players of unbridled free form and experimental sounds were involved that the annual festival soon became a crowded week-long summer happening. Ironically – which was one reason for the Fest’s popularity – these probing sounds and its players were supposed to have vanished after the revolutionary 1960s, superseded first by Jazz-Rock pounders’ simple melodies and then jazz’s Young Lions who aped the sounds and sartorial choices of the 1950s – both of which had major record label support. Still bassist/composer/bandleader William Parker’s Centering: Unreleased Early Recordings 1976–1987 NoBusiness NBCD 42-47 aptly demonstrates, experimental sounds never vanished; they just went underground. As the 24 often lengthy tracks that make up this 6-CD set of hitherto unreleased material substantiates in its breadth of performances, sonically questing players were improvising and composing during those so-called lost years. But it took the founding of the Vision Festival by Parker and his wife, dancer/choreographer Patricia Nicholson, to provide the proper medium for this work. Major stylists such as saxophonists Charles Gayle and David S. Ware, vocalist Ellen Christi and trumpeter Roy Campbell, all of whom are represented in the set, would go on to mentor a multiplying groundswell of younger rule stretchers and future Vision Fest participants. Also, despite being professionally recorded, the conservative climate of the times, plus the cost of producing and distributing LPs, left the tapes used for these CDs stacked in performers’ apartments. Now the belated release of Centering fills in a blank in jazz history, equivalent to what coming across a cache of unreleased John Cage or Morton Feldman recordings would do. Included in the package is an attractively designed 66-page paperback book with vintage photos, posters and sketches along with essays discussing the background of the sessions, the musicians’ experiences and the New York scene.
From a historical perspective the most valuable artifacts are those which feature Parker playing alongside saxophonists who are now major influences in the international avant garde. From 1980 the bassist and alto saxophonist Daniel Carter are involved in musical discussions which make up for their lack of nuance with brilliant and mercurial playing, eviscerating every timbre and tone that could be sourced from their instruments. As Parker’s chunky rhythms hold the bottom while simultaneously rubbing and stopping strings to produce unique interjections, Carter ranges all over his horn. On “Thulin”, for instance, multiphonic split tones, triple tonguing, barks and bites are just the beginning of the saxophonist’s agitated interface. Working his solo into a fever pitch of altissimo cries and freak notes, he often sounds as if he’s playing two reed instruments. Eventually Parker’s juddering percussiveness grounds the track; angling the two towards a finale, but not before an extended a capella passage by the bassist, where his multi-string sinewy strokes expose timbres that could be created by a string quartet. Contrast that with the beefy pedal point Parker uses on the two 1987 tracks with tenor saxophonist Gayle. After the reedist’s almost continuous overblowing exposes snarling altissimo or nephritic guttural tones, Parker asserts himself on “Entrusted Spirit” with tremolo strums and slaps which echo sympathetically alongside Gayle’s expansive multiphonics. Finally the saxman’s pressurized snarls and mercurial split tones are muted to an affiliated moderato tone by smooth pizzicato lines from Parker, bringing wood tapping and top-of-range angling into the mix.
Equally instructive, tenor saxophone Ware and Parker, who would become one-half of Ware’s celebrated quartet in the 1990s, recorded with drummer Denis Charles in 1980 as the Centering Dance Music Ensemble. Unlike earlier Parker compositions on this set performed by string or vocal-based ensembles to back-up Nicholson’s choreography that seem overly notated and more distant, the Ware-Parker-Charles creations are vibrant free jazz that may have caused repetitive strain injuries among dance company members. Highpoint is the inclusive and contrapuntal Tapestry. Here the saxophonist’s juddering smears and expansive reed vibrations, Parker’s focused slaps and Charles’ bass drum thumps are individually showcased then smartly combined into a tremolo vamp that descends into satisfying cohesion. Edifyingly demonstrating that the so-called avant-gardists celebrated the tradition is One Day Understanding. With a dirge-like middle section where Ware directly quotes an Albert Ayler head, the exposition and conclusion allow the saxman full range for glossolalia, spinning split tones and fervid overblowing effectively honoring saxophone titans like John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman by inference. Parker’s sputtering spiccato slices relate to Henry Grimes’ and Jimmy Garrison’s liberation of the bass role; while Charles, whose military-style rebounds and hard backbeat helped define free jazz in the late 1950s, just plays himself.
Even more germane to contemporary experimenters who frequently amalgamate into large-scale improvisational ensembles are two other Parker-led groups. Both 1979’s eight- member Big Moon Ensemble and 1984’s 13-person Centering Big Band are links between Coleman’s Double Quartet and Coltrane’s Ascension band and today. Vaulting between inchoate and inspired, the Big Moon tracks are polyrhythmic, polytonal and polyharmonic with the instrumental tessitura stretched to make room for thundering solos from the likes of Carter and Campbell plus trumpeter Arthur Williams and altoist Jameel Moondoc. On tunes such as “Hiroshima Part Two” and “Dedication to Kenneth Patchen” the cumulative effect of the multi-colored free-form cascading is intensified by aboriginal war whoops and unbalanced screams from the band members as they play. Tremolo triplets from Campbell meet Williams’ capillary flutter tonguing on “… Patchen”, as Moondoc’s juddering split tones contrast with Carter’s leaping glossolalia. With Charles and Rashid Bakr both thrashing percussion, Parker and fellow bassist Jay Oliver stroke manfully to finally downshift the collective cascading, only to have it revive with increased ferocity on “Hiroshima”. Stacked horn parts encompassing stop-time screaming and pressurized vibratos are strung out during this nearly 50-minute piece as each musician seems to be trying to outdo the others in ferocity. Instructively the bassist’s later experiments with World music improv are adumbrated in a protracted sequence when his string strumming and the percussion work sound as if they’re emanating from a koto and a taiko drum.
There’s no mistaking the jazz inflections on the five big band selections however. But their modernity is apparent in the resourceful balance among intense riffs from the five saxophones, Parker’s time-keeping plus percussionist Zen Matsura’s cymbal clanks and press rolls as well as stacked and cascading vocal interchange from Christi and fellow vocalist Lisa Sokolov. Intense, heraldic triplets from trumpeters Campbell and Raphe Malik add to the churning excitement of tunes like “Munyaovi”, as first the snorting reeds then the brass section’s triplet expansion match the vocalists in staccato invention. The overall effect isn’t unlike Count Basie’s band at full force playing a swing riff. Space is furthermore made throughout for comforting trombone slurs, twanging rhythmic sequences from Parker and, on Tototo, an alluring balladic line from Moondoc. That piece climaxes with a polyphonic entanglement of the drummer’s harsh ruffs and flams, screaming penny whistle-style brass shrills and guttural baritone sax honks, completed by a slithery sax line that coalesces with harmonized voices.
The big band selections were taped at the 1984 Kool Jazz Festival, one of Parker’s rare high-profile gigs. It may have taken another dozen years to organize the Vision Festival and find the multiplicity of gigs and recordings Parker and his associates now participate in, but this momentous box set confirms that all along experimental music’s foundation was being cultivated slightly out of the public eye.
-- For Whole Note Vol. 18 #2
October 12, 2012
DAVID S. WARE
Live in the World
Thirsty Ear THI 57153.2
David S. Ware doesnt shy away from the Free Jazz label. Unlike some contemporary improvisers who say they play Free Music and treat jazz the way nouveau riche yuppies view acquaintances still wearing last years clothes, the tenor saxophonist esteems the tradition that goes back through 1960s New Thing to take in distinctive reed stylists such as Sonny Rollins and before that Coleman Hawkins.
This three-CD set of live performances helps stake his claim as one of the foremost jazz tenor saxophone stylist in the 21st century. Made up of one 1998 Swiss concert and two Italian gigs from 2003, it features three different drummers: the bands former trapsperson, Susie Ibarra; its present one Guillermo E. Brown; and Hamid Drake, the gentleman from Chicago who often plays with the quartets longtime bassist William Parker. Wares tough love jazz values are such that they run roughshod over any tendency towards electronica or world music in which some of the other players have indulged at other times. The three hours of music also confirm Wares status as a major league jazzer.
Key statement here is the first disc and two additional tracks from the same session on discs two and three that couldnt have been squeezed onto CD1. By the time it ends, the Ware-Parker-Ibarra-pianist Matthew Shipp four has fused into an indivisible unit of improvisational skill, sort of like the Modern Jazz Quartet or John Coltranes classic quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. Here and on the other CDs, Shipp demonstrates that in the right situation his jazz credentials are fully in order and his comping and pianisms perfectly mesh with the rest; ditto for Parkers rasping and rhythmic double bass underpinning.
Somewhat constrained by the bands heavy jazz orientation, Ibarras use of offbeat and miscellaneous percussion still confirms that she offered the most varied percussion response to the others testosterone-fuelled playing. Drake, whose experience with Chicago veterans like tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson allows him to mix the unexpected with heavy time keeping is also a fine addition. Brown, a beat-meister does his job thoroughly and competently.
His powerful yet commonplace rhythmic work is why CD3 is the weakest of the three discs. Although the lengthening and recasting of Rollins Freedom Suite are noteworthy, especially for Shipps high-frequency gospellish piano work, the four tracks are most impressive to Suite virgins. Ware recorded his definitive studio version of the suite for AUM Fidelity (AUM 023) that same year, and the necessity for the preservation of a live version is somewhat louche. Rollins himself only recorded the original once.
Back to the Swiss date however, and the almost 32-minute Aquarian Sound. Pivoting on Parkers walking, modal fills from Shipp, and steady cymbal clinks and bouncing bass drum beats from Ibarra, Ware initially enters mimicking the rhythmic backbeat. Soon, however, he pushes himself into double-tonguing glossolalia, encompassing a swelling crescendo of resonating honks and reverberating blasts. Depending on extended variation provided by sonorous bass thumps, Shipp begins to vigorously voice patterns that seem to draw on Herbie Hancocks freebop period. Shipps dramatic voicing extend the music even further, sluicing from treble to bass clef without interrupting its vigorous flow, and only gearing down half way through to make space for a low-pitched arco solo of strained, high-pitched motions from Parker that melt into moderato and legato shuffle bowing. Meanwhile, Ibarra is cunningly altering the backing with gourd-shaking, gong-soundings and cymbal claps.
When the head is finally recapitulated, by Wares droning tongue stops and Shipps stolid heavy chording, she has switched to brisk cross rhythms. This precedes a climatic, extended and concluding renal scream from Ware.
Ibarra brings similar inventiveness to Stargazer, CD3s bonus track from 1998 appended to the 2003 material. Except in this case the pianist varies his output as well. Feeding prepared, almost harpsichordic tones or quivering, theremin-like timbres to the composition, Shipps foreshortened piano expressions meet up with cymbal cracks, varied patterning on the snares, and crosswise stick thumps. Parkers penetrating bass lines link these quirks with focused comping from Shipp that resembles mainstream nightclub strategies. On top of all this is Wares majestic soling, which creeps in mildly then distends into colossal foghorn-like honks and overblowing, nasally masticating the notes.
For the unconvinced, theres how Ware recomposes Marvin Hamlischs The Way We Were, as it morphs from unrecognizable to almost familiar. Low-key rumination, split-tone variations and body-tube blasts a cappella is Wares initial strategy, until a few minutes later false register glissandi hints at the melodys harmonics. With his droning vibrato wide and wider and his use of glottal punctuation and double tonguing referencing Rollins and Coltranes way with a ballad, by the finale he finally double-times the recognizable tune. His variations may be like the tail wagging the dog, but what a tail it is.
Drakes interface brings out the Tyner-like modal emphasis in Shipps playing, scraping and sawing double-stopped runs from Parker and some of Wares most emotional soloing. But considering his cross-handed deliberations hardly let a phrase from the others pass without a flam, rebound or ruff comment, lesser histrionics are really Drakes forte.
One of those tunes is Unknown Mansion, an edifice that seems to have been partially built on the calypso-chanting Caribbean island where Rollins likes to dwell. Varying his beat patterns with doubled smashes and Latinesque prettiness, Drake somehow manages to get the usually dour-sounding Ware to appear as if hes swinging a Louis Jordan ditty. At one point you can swear you hear the riff from Open the Door, Richard. Meantime Shipp is uncoiling cadences that contain Monk-like key clipping and steady, left-handed percussive notes. Harmonically conservative compared to Ibarras accompaniment, Drake is as externally directed in his solos. Apparently spanking his toms and snares with his palms, he also horizontally cross patterns a single drum on those same surfaces, while simultaneously propelling the beat with hi-hat and cymbal resonation. Ware, almost mellow, returns to sound broken cadences in tandem with Shipp and provides a clenched-teeth version of the head.
Subsequent tunes like Sentient Compassion and Co Co Cana may feature harder reed tone and shrill whinnying from Ware, but, possibly because of Drake, his abrasive tone is less than it would be with Brown. On the first he reverberates split tones back and forth, as Parker bows vibrating double stops, bringing out the woodenness of his bass along with the solidity of his strings. Combined, the four produce almost ballad-like twittering lines that echo onto themselves. On the later, Wares high-pitched yelps, Drakes rim shots and Shipps high frequency double counterpoint serve as backing for a Parker display. Moving from walking to relay race string action on the fretboard, Parker double stops with masculine power and by the end of his solo has Shipp spinning out circular patterns to sustain his momentum.
LIVE IN THE WORLD is a major achievement in quantitative heft as well as music.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: CD 1: 1. Aquarian Sound 2. Logistic 3. Sentient Compassion 4. Mikuros Blues CD 2: 1. Elders Path 2. Unknown Mansion 3. Sentient Compassion 4. Co Co Cana 5. Manus Ideal 6. Lexicon CD 3 [Freedom Suite]: 1. Part One 2. Part Two 3. Part Three 4. Part Four 5. Stargazer
Personnel: Disc One: David S. Ware (tenor saxophone); Matthew Shipp (piano); William Parker (bass); Susie Ibarra (drums): Disc Two: Ware; Shipp; Parker; Hamid Drake (drums) Disc Three: Ware; Shipp; Parker; Guillermo E. Brown (drums)
September 12, 2005
DAVID S. WARE
AUM Fidelity AUM 023
Performing and recording the music of another innovator is probably the most profound challenge a jazzman can face. Especially difficult is reinterpreting a piece that brings forth memories of the originator every time its played; and this predicament doubles when the piece involved is programmatic, rather than just one tune.
Through careful planning and -- to be honest -- luck, tenor saxophonist David S. Ware and his quartet have avoided these pitfalls with their version of Sonny Rollins FREEDOM SUITE, originally done in 1958. For a start, unlike Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk -- to name three other jazz stars whose works are constantly being recast -- no one else has tried to take on Rollins masterwork. Additionally, although the piece itself presaged a group of equally important thematic Pan African and Black Nationalist compositions by Max Roach -- who also played on the disc -- Charles Mingus and Coltrane, the suite itself is mostly based on tone and dynamic variations, rather than definitive motifs.
By more than doubling its length to 39:24 minutes from 19:29 minutes and dividing it into four parts, the Ware quartet can then construct its variations on the major theme and go on from there to give it an individual reading. Especially salutary is the blustering tone of Ware, who was not only influenced by Rollins, but over the years has counted the older saxophonist as a mentor. He, bassist William Parker and pianist Matthew Shipp has been together for more than a decade, so their close rapport and intuitive support are even more pronounced then the interaction in Rollins pick up group of 1958.
In truth, as well, Parker, whose rooted time keeping and innovatory arco and pizzicato is used to good effect here, is probably an even better bassist than early bopper Oscar Pettiford who recorded on the original LP. At the same time, Shipp, who has no role model to fall back on, creates a new, dramatic part for himself, full of obbligatos, low frequencies and lots of left hand action. Only young drummer Guillermo E. Brown suffers in comparison to Roach -- who wouldnt -- but except for some polyrhythms in the third section, he mostly limits himself to cymbal shimmers, press rolls and general accompaniment.
More ferocious in his output than Rollins was in his day, Wares blurred growls and buzz tones are a less conventional response to the material. But his embellishments add R&B shouting rather than the sort of extended technique that is Wares usual stock in trade. Its noteworthy too that in the second section, the pianists andante syncopation have a Wynton Kelly cast to them and are actually the equivalent in this version to the sort of chording the later provided on 1950s and 1960s sessions. That section ends with an extended sprayed cadenza from the saxist, culminating in a fog horn cry over top of pedal-point arco ostinato from the bassist.
Moving between modal accompaniment and a version of a classical fantasia with a gentle touch, Shipp sometimes reprises the theme, but usually lets Ware build the connective tissue. Ultimately its the saxophonist who introduces the thematic resolution on the final track. But he does so through variations without explicitly stating the theme. Meanwhile Shipp reintroduces right-handed tremolos that serve as his version of hard- bop comping, as Parkers tone constantly shifts and convenes any errant music. In conclusion, Ware advances a triumphant run through of the main theme using the same harsh, distinctive intonation with which he began the suite, and everyone gets in a lick or two before the end.
If theres any downside to the quartets triumphal run through of this composition, is that it may encourage others with less acumen to follow suit and unsuccessfully take on other modern jazz classics. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but this FREEDOM SUITE can stand with the original through transmogrification.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Freedom Suite 1 2. Freedom Suite 2 3. Freedom Suite 3 4. Freedom Suite 4
Personnel: David S. Ware (tenor saxophone); Mathew Shipp (piano); William Parker (bass); Guillermo E. Brown (drums)
March 3, 2003