Never one to be daunted, David S. Ware's first release after his kidney transplant was a solo live recording of three improvisations on three different instruments. Saturnian (Solo Saxophones, Volume One)
(AUM Fidelity, 2010) garnered a strongly positive critical response. Now he has gone one stage further, following up with an even better studio date backed by the experienced pairing of longtime collaborator William Parker
on bass and veteran drummer Warren I Smith
, both holdovers from Ware's quartet which made the well-received Shakti
(AUM Fidelity, 2008).
As with the same threesome's triumphant appearance at the 2010 Vision Festival
, they rely solely on their wits and skill, abjuring previously composed material. That's not to say there isn't structure. With three such well travelled improvisers, spontaneously generated cohesion is never far away. A prime example comes early on "Wheel Of Life" where, after an introductory drum feature, trio sections alternate with spots for bass alone, before a closing drum solo echoes the start. Ware also retains a broad palette by turning not just to his customary tenor saxophone, but also the saxello (essentially a Bb soprano sax with an upturned bell) and stritch (a straight alto sax variant) for three pieces each. In the liner interview, the saxophonist characterizes this album as all of a piece, but he does show preferences, spending almost half the program on stritch, with 20 minutes on tenor and just 15 on saxello.
As with Shakti
, Smith's open spare percussion is a defining characteristic, allowing space for the music to breathe. Both Ware and Parker take maximum advantage, with the bassist, in particular, showcasing his idiosyncratic arco technique, always one of the most exciting aspects of his craft. Ware has a tone to die for on tenorrich, full and throatybut he brings a searching keening quality to his work on the other two horns. "Astral Earth" is the standout track and also the longest at 15 minutes. There is a hint of meditation in Ware's expressive stritch after Smith's exotic gong and tympani introduction. He takes his time. Lyrical turns of phrase emerge from his yelping discourse in slow moving procession, shadowed by Parker's booming bass.
Other highlights include the intoxicating blend of falsetto tenor saxophone and bowed bass counterpoint on "Bardo" and the busy propulsive "Anagami" where Ware obsessively shapes and reshapes a loosely worked motif on stritch. All involved operate at the highest level throughout, confirming that Ware is well and truly back.
Personnel: David S. Ware: tenor sax, stritch, saxello; William Parker: bass; Warren Smith: drums, tympani, percussion.