David S. Ware: Planetary Musician

Lyn Horton By

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The inflection in Ware's voice changes, depending on the usually quite serious subject about which he speaks. At times, he assumes a role of an undaunted teacher, especially, when it comes to talking about meditation and music. His observations and perceptions are hair-splitting; his breadth of knowledge, "encyclopedic," as Matthew Shipp has described it.

Every interview that Ware has participated in since the early' 70s has revealed basically the same philosophy. Yet his "understanding is so much greater because of the [spiritual] work he has done on himself." He has stopped "looking at things from the standpoint, the perspective, of his bounded self...I am consciously on a path back to ultimate reality. When one becomes fully aware of that, then the entire life experience intensifies. The body is realized as a vehicle for that experience...Bodies come and bodies go. We all become attached to them in vain. They are part of suffering. This serves as motivation to live a life of transcendence. The transcendental is the Source."

As Ware talks about his present life, post-kidney transplant, an aura of the onus of his illness can be detected. When asked how he has adjusted his daily life, he hesitates in forming his thoughts. "My daily life..." he says, as a long silence ensues. Then he starts to speak again and he keeps on talking for a long while: "I've always been a disciplined person, right? I go into my own routines and I stay there unless I'm going on the road. The only thing that takes me out of my routine is going on the road, right? My life is pretty routine. It's my own routine. I wake up in the morning and I do meditation and I do meditation in the evening. I practice during the late afternoon. Now I am forced to exercise. I like to exercise—whether it's been yoga, whether it's been weightlifting or walking. So now I have to try to put forth an effort to make my body stronger because now my body has been weakened by these damn drugs I have to take every day...these anti-rejection drugs, right? So I have to be very conscious of doing some kind of physical exercise every week...I don't walk as much because of how the drugs have affected my nerves in my legs and my feet. And we don't have dogs anymore. We had dogs for fifteen years. I walked those dogs every day. Every day, I was out walking the dogs in the afternoon. That's no more." His two Japanese Shiba Inus, Mikuro and Bibi died in 2006 and 2009, respectively.

Ware lifts weights for his upper body and can't do much with his legs. He avoided being confined to a wheelchair and was compelled to search for his own physical therapy program. He has cut back on the physical therapy he has been receiving for the last nine months for his legs and feet, "because my nerves can't take it. My nerves need some rest." He no longer uses a cane. For the rest of his life, he must take the anti-rejection steroids, which decrease the strength of his immune system. He must cope with diabetes. "The kidney is fine," he declares, "It's all the rest of me that is affected." No one told him about the potential side effects of the drugs he takes. He is looking to leave conventional medicine and seek alternative means to take care of himself, where no drugs and no surgeries are required in treatment, and his nerves can be regenerated.

Ware describes his going into what is called a Saturn Dasa, a Vedic term for how karma unfolds: "Saturn is the slowest moving planet...I am right in the middle of its nineteen-year cycle [in the Vedic astrological sense]. Before the Saturn period, I was in the Jupiter period...This period is about expansion. I was with the quartet then. They were going to Europe six...seven times a year, getting recognition, making records...Got on Columbia, the biggest dog-gone company in the world! Everything was expanding! Just as that period was ending, the quartet started slowing down, not working as much and then comes in Saturn...And that's when I went on dialysis. So you think...You look at your life...Damn...Then people start dying. My mother died. My brother-in-law died...only 54 years old. Then my father died last year [2009]. And I am dealing with all this health stuff...So, what I am saying is I'm dealing with it on a daily basis. I am stuck in it...Stuck........in........it [The "t" at the end of the word "it," blistering with sharpness.] But I do have a slightly higher perspective about it... If I weren't meditating, man, I would be totally out of it. Out of it, man. Out......of.......it. That's my root. Without it, I would have been gone a long time ago anyway. I would not have made it out of the '70s. So, you know...That's what's goin' on, you know. That's what's goin' on," he concludes with a nearly inaudible sigh.

"What happens to me now is that if I need help with something, if I am trying to understand something, then that thing will come to me. It can be a book, or from within. You find a way to access all knowledge. Knowledge is structured in con-scious-ness...ba-boom... That is the key. Knowledge is the fuel of all possibilities. It means everything that was and always will be. If you know how to tap into consciousness...pure consciousness... awareness of awareness... pure awareness...without anything on top of it, the search is over as far as a path goes. You go from there to the end."

Joe Morris phrased it beautifully, when he told a story about being on tour in November of 2007, before the release of Shakti: "When I performed with him, he had trouble walking in the airport. It was a relief when he asked for a ride around to the gates. He was struggling so much, and this was before he let the world know what his health condition was like, right before. But when we hit the stage, he was like a volcano or a hurricane, with complete focus and more energy that you could imagine. And he was happy while he was playing, like the burden was lifted."


At the Vision Fest, the hour or so for which the trio played defied expectations. Even those who heard Ware's comeback concert in October of 2009, which would be documented on AUM Fidelity's Saturnian, would have been surprised. The music came to a boil, as Ware configured notes that structured a planar ascent that blew the roof off. He dipped into many bloated low pitches, but, then, as Ware pointed his tenor upwards to scream out an exceptionally refined high-pitch, drummer Smith raised his eyebrows in amazement, challenged as to how to keep up with the leader. The buildup, which Ware carefully plotted with as many notes as he could possibly fit in, was the Ware the audience knew so well. He had claimed a time to begin again, resorting his own musical ideas, realigning contextual priorities and improvising like never before, in the secure company of Parker and Smith.

Selected Discography

David S. Ware Trio, Onecept (AUM Fidelity, 2010)

David S. Ware, Saturnian (AUM Fidelity, 2010)

David S. Ware Quartet, Live In Vilnius (NoBusiness Records, 2009)

David S. Ware Trio, Shakti (AUM Fidelity, 2008)

David S. Ware Quartet, Renunciation (AUM Fidelity, 2007)

David S. Ware Quartet, Balladware (Thirsty Ear, 2006)

David S. Ware, Live In The World (Thirsty Ear, 2005)

David S. Ware String Ensemble, Threads (Thirsty Ear, 2003)

David S. Ware Quartet, Freedom Suite (AUM Fidelity, 2002)

David S. Ware Quartet, Corridors & Parallels (AUM Fidelity, 2001)

David S. Ware, Surrendered (Columbia, 2000)

David S. Ware Quartet, Godspellized (DIW, 1997)

David S. Ware Quartet, Tao (Homestead Records, 1996)

David S. Ware Quartet, Oblations & Blessings (Silkheart, 1996)

David S. Ware Quartet, Cryptology (Homestead Records, 1995)

David S. Ware Quartet, Flight Of I (Columbia, 1992)

David S. Ware Quartet, Great Bliss, Vol. 1 & 2 (Silkheart, 1991)

Photo Credits

Page 1: John Rogers, courtesy of David S. Ware

Pages 2, 3: John Sharpe

Page 4: Dimitri Medvejev, courtesy of David S. Ware
About David S. Ware
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