David S. Ware: Threads (2004)
Tenor sax giant David S. Ware, a prominent disciple in the religion of free jazz, has managed to pull off an impressive feat: he stays out of the way while making his presence felt. On Threads, it's almost as though Ware is a guest star on his own session. This is because he has placed the emphasis on his composing rather than his playing. Ware wrote or cowrote all of the songs here; and while he makes front and center appearances on a few cuts, this disc is conceived, designed, to allow the other player more latitude to fully realize his deep musical conception.
Bassist William Parker's raga-based bowed opening notes set the pace for "Ananda Rotation." Viola player Mat Maneri and violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain fall in behind him, and Matthew Shipp, more famous for playing straight up on the piano, lends his chops to weave a synthesized string curtain as a backdrop. Ware arrives on the scene to blow a dark, moody solo. It takes him little time to reach into his bag of tricks, and it's exhilirating to hear Roumain briefly play along with him, shout for shout. The three string players and the brass man convene for a tense, moody exchange of ideas. The drama builds with Roumain playing staccato notes and Shipp providing the final chapter, with Guillermo E. Brown walking him out on the drums.
Parker also leads off the funky "Sufic Passages," this time plucking the melody. Brown whispers on cymbals leading up to Shipp's electronic statement of the theme. Then Maneri and Roumain take solos that play off of each other like strophe and antistrophe in Greek tragedy. The moments where Ware is most prominent are on the companion songs "Weave I" and "Weave II," where he duets with Brown, weaving Middle Eastern-influenced solos over Brown's solid groove.
The title cut is the disc's masterpiece, a hypnotic and moving string and synthesizer chamber ballad, almost baroque in construction and execution. There are peaks and valleys of emotion and mood throughout the song, beautifully rendered by the string players and Shipp like a musical bas-relief. Individual voices speak through the free jazz sensibilities that Ware so passionately embraces. Despite the song's somber tone, there's a feeling of celebration. The song ends with a long held note by Roumain that lingers, then suddenly sprints away, leaving a haunting echo in its wake.
"Carousel of Lightness" is an airy tune with Shipp's feathery synth as the background, featuring excellent playing by Maneri and Roumain. Brown brews beneath the music's heavily spiritual component. Once again, Ware steps on stage, blows a few introductory notes as a means of giving his blessing to the troops, then steps aside and lets them do their thing.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Track Listing: 1. Ananda Rotation - 6:39 2. Sufic Passages - 9:02 3. Weave, Pt. 1 - 3:21 4. Threads - 13:00 5. Carousel of Lightness - 9:02 6. Weave, Pt. 2 - 3:41
Personnel: David S. Ware - Tenor Sax; Matthew Shipp - Piano, Korg Synthesizer; William Parker - Bass; Mat Maneri - Viola; Guillermo E. Brown - Drums; Daniel Bernard Roumain - Violin.