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David S. Ware/Matthew Shipp: Live in Sant’Anna Arresi, 2004

Karl Ackermann By

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Describing David S. Ware as a maverick would be a gimmicky shortcut around the depth of the late saxophonist's vision. Outside of John Coltrane we have not seen a Ware contemporary with more depth of spirituality, presented in such a visceral way. Similarly, Matthew Shipp employs a type of unimaginable creative mysticism that transcends technique and peer comparisons with an approach and sound that is wholly his own. Live in Sant'Anna Arresi, 2004 showcases two masters—with a long working history—in a rare live duo performance.

For almost twenty years Shipp, bassist William Parker and a succession of drummers (Marc Edwards, Whit Dickey, Susie Ibarra and Guillermo E. Brown), made up Ware's namesake quartet. Shipp and Ware had performed as a duo only a few times but the Sant'Anna Arresi performance appears to be the only one that was captured for posterity. The sixty year old festival in Sardinia was a fortunate venue to have been recorded and released as the second entry in AUM Fidelity's David S. Ware Archive Series.

The two-part improvisation "Tao Flow" opens with Ware's lamenting tenor searching just above Shipp's circumspect chords. As the first of the two roughly twenty-minute sections ladders in complexity, Shipp mixes chunks of chords with decomposing tonality and melodic passages. Ware gives the saxophone a raw, human-like voice tearing through fearsome explorations of spontaneous ideas. "Tao Flow, Pt. 2" has Shipp playing outside and inside the piano as he and Ware dial down the intensity briefly. Occasionally sharing ideas, often freely expressing individual concepts, the two artists opt out of clearly defining a leadership hierarchy.

With Live in Sant'Anna Arresi, 2004 we have unconstrained improvisation, sensibly executed with neither excess nor self-imposed limitation. Both Ware and Shipp effect knotty, non-linear phrases only to break off in unexpected directions. They will sometimes leave just enough space to contemplate the current before hurtling down another tributary. This is great, adventurous music.

Track Listing: Tao Flow, Pt. 1; Tao Flow, Pt. 2; Encore.

Personnel: David S. Ware: tenor saxophone; Matthew Shipp: piano.

Title: Live in Sant’Anna Arresi, 2004 | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: AUM Fidelity

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