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David S. Ware: Saturnian (Solo Saxophones, Volume One)

Chris May By

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Saturnian celebrates saxophonist David S. Ware's return to health—and public performance—after near fatal kidney failure. Released in a limited edition, and subtitled Solo Saxophones Volume 1, it was recorded live at the Abrons Arts Center, NYC in October 2009, towards the end of a year in which Ware's life had hung in the balance and many in the jazz world had feared the worst. He was saved by the widow of a fellow musician and Ware fan, kidney donor Laura Mehr, who was a special guest at the Abrons performance.

2009 was also Ware's 50th year as a saxophonist. Best known for his post-1990, groundbreaking work on the tenor, at the Abrons he also played saxello and stritch, both of which he approached without the altissimo harmonics which are such a key feature of his tenor playing. The concert was in three parts, each lasting between 11 and 15 minutes. The first, "Methone," featured the saxello, a soprano saxophone with a curved neck. For the second, "Pallene," Ware switched to the stritch, a straight version of the alto. He ended the performance on tenor, with "Anthe."

"This is the way I have practiced all of these years, as though I am performing a solo," writes Ware in the liner notes. Arriving at a similar destination from the other direction, trumpeter Miles Davis once said that he did all his practicing on the bandstand. Saturnian does indeed resemble a solo practice session, at which the audience are privileged observers.

By Ware's standards, "Methone" is conventional stuff, a warm up session in which he finds his center. "Pallene" and "Anthe" are more architectural. By the time he's picked up the tenor, Ware is flying, and "Anthe" is by some distance the most interesting track. It's made so, in part, by the bigger canvas—strewn with guttural, broken notes as well as high harmonics—on which Ware employs the tenor. The force is still with him, the journey continues. How fortunate we are to have David S. Ware back among us.

Track Listing: Methone; Pallene; Anthe.

Personnel: David S. Ware: saxello, stritch, tenor saxophone.

Title: Saturnian (Solo Saxophones, Volume One) | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: AUM Fidelity

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