For its second release, cooperative super group Planetary Unknown offers three collectively birthed cuts recorded live at the Austrian Saalfelden Jazz Festival in 2011. Even though given equal billing, saxophonist David S. Ware
gets the biggest font size metaphorically in the concert introduction and features most prominently in the mix. In fact, it is Ware who provides most of the narrative thrust in the quartet's enthralling arc of creativity.
Ware has moved away from the compositions that were the mainstay of his classic quartet to unfettered, on-the-fly creation. But that is not to say the result is formless. With over 16 decades of hard won experience between them, each of these four is a master at this form of expression. Even though there is no tune or fixed tempo, what they produce is still recognizably jazz. But with the shortest cut just shy of 15 minutes, and the longest more than double that, this is long-form improvisation, where the group navigates towards a satisfactory ending, guided by an innate sense of structure, outstanding instrumental prowess and keen appreciation of each others' contribution.
Ware is inevitably heard as the lead voice, seemingly inexhaustible, playing most of the time. His trademark muscular sound edges from gruff barks to pure falsetto yelps, often sustained by circular breathing into excitable streams of canine-bothering squeals. If he ever flags, the madcap accompaniment of pianist Cooper-Moore
quickly provides the stimulus for even greater exertion. A barrage of glinting left-field pianistics jab and prod almost continuously. Throughout all the reed man's transformations, bassist William Parker
has remained at Ware's side and it is easy to hear why: his probing counterpoint and rippling arpeggios provide the fulcrum around which the band spins, in tandem with Muhammad Ali
's buoyant pulse and shouts of encouragement and affirmation.
The overall sound is dense with everyone going full-tilt. Ware's unaccompanied muezzin call begins "Processional 1" which quickly morphs into a churning quartet. The saxophonist plays for the first 16 minutes in a bravura display, before leaving Cooper-Moore's dervish frenzy in the spotlight. He's back at the end with an elongated upper register flourish, which leads seamlessly into the more conversational "Processional 2," notable for an extended passage where the pianist's tumbling vamp grounds yet another stratospheric flight from the reed man, and a gritty roiling interlude dominated by Ali's torrential polyrhythms. Pick of the bunch is the final "Processional 3," ushered in by Parker's tolling pedal point call countered by his own exclamatory arco response, which takes on a dark-hued melodicism, stretched by Ware into an incantatory psalm. It all makes for a formidable outing, easily the match of Planetary Unknown's incendiary eponymous 2011 debut