Vision Festival XI, Angel Orensanz Foundation For The Arts, NYC - Day Six, 18 June 2006
Ware's stamina was also intact, proving itself over the course of an hour-long set comprising six pieces and an encore. The second piece could almost be taken as a metaphor for the stage the group has reached in their evolution. Ware opened alone with outpouring on tenor. When he stopped, the rhythm section (if the collective talents of Matthew Shipp, William Parker and Guillermo Brown can be contained in that title) started, and so it continued with alternating soliloquies between Ware and collective excursions from the rest of the band. They did eventually combine with a brief outburst of free tenor over a bass and drum furor, but it was hard not to take away the message that Ware was looking beyond this group. While most of the pieces evidenced Ware's questing nature and refusal to rest on his laurels, by giving the impression of being created in the moment or at best loosely arranged, two old warhorses were executed at the end of the set: an incisive rendition of "Mikuro's Theme and a moving anthemic piece whose name still escapes me.
These pieces coaxed outstanding solos from Ware, who used the familiar superstructures to construct volcanic statements until he was speaking in tongues, closing the hymn-like finale with a wistful whimpering.
Parker, Brown and Shipp provided peerless support, but this was truly Ware's show. He indicated who should solo when, with a Brown drum solo closing one piece with typical bombast, while a wonderous Parker arco solo opened another with a buzzing, almost vocalised, wavering line, accompanied by Shipp in lyric mode. There was less time in the spotlight for Shipp, and when the third piece opened with quickfire freeform oratory, it seemed he was intent on forcibly compressing an entire evening's notes into the highly charged introduction.
The inevitable standing ovation brought with it an unprecedented encore: a short stop-start primal scream of a piece which drew to a squealing finale, providing a fantastic end to Vision XI.
After six days that had amply lived up to the promise which had lured me back, it was time to say goodbye to new friends and think about what Vision XII might offer. The rumour was that next year the Festival might be in a new location, not far from Lincoln Center. Time will tell, but watch the Vision Festival website for details.