I have never seen the far-fabled David S. Ware Quartet in concertand, as their gig at this year's Vision Festival was their last US appearance, I probably never will. It did not seem as much of a loss until I heard this 2004 triple-disc document. The public praise, echoing what accompanied the classic Coltrane quartet, was hard to believe. Yet, as the 32 minutes of "Aquarian Sound swelled, bloomed, shuddered, writhed and abated on first listen, much of it had to be true. The version here is from 1998, some of the set's earliest material. The sound is first-rate, filling and transcending every listening space.
If I have one complaint, it's that Ware simply leaves the other players in the dust! As he goes further and further out, diving and swooping through the boldest and most audacious multiphonics and back again, it feels like the other musicians are simply waiting for his return, rather than joining him on the journey.
The first of two 2003 concerts, with the incomparable drummer Hamid Drake, brings the noise a bit more completely than disc two. Perhaps he simply adds the last bit of energy necessary to propel the others forward, while Susie Ibarra's work from 1998 thrives more on timbral exploration.
No more needs to be said of the group's rendition of Sonny Rollins' "Freedom Suite, this time with Guillermo Brown filling the drum chair, than that it is expanded to about an hour. The set as a whole is immense, powerful and satisfying in more ways than one could imagine. Apart from the breathtaking Wisdom of Uncertainty (AUM Fidelity, 1997), it documents most convincingly the raw power and creativity of this seminal group.
CD 1: Aquarian Sound; Logistic; Sentient Compassion; Mikuro's Blues. CD2: Elder's Path;
Sentient Compassion; Co Co Cana; Manu's Ideal; Lexicon. CD3: Freedom Suite: Part One; Part
Two; Part Three; Part Four; Stargazer.
David S. Ware: saxophone;
Matthew Shipp: piano;
William Parker: bass;
Susie Ibarra: drums (CD1);
Hamid Drake: drums (CD2);
Guillermo E. Brown: drums (CD3).
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