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

John Sharpe By

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There is always a tinge of soul-baring in solo performance on a single line instrument like the saxophone, when stripped of the musical support customarily handled by an ensemble. David S. Ware's story only accentuates that feeling. Rushed into print as a limited edition release of 1500, Saturnian documents Ware's first public showing since his kidney transplant, at an October 2009 solo appearance. Though more often sighted at the helm of a quartet, with a restyled foursome onboard for his critically lauded Shakti (Aum Fidelity, 2009), this is nonetheless Ware's second solo disc, after Live in the Netherlands (Splasch, 2001), and he shows himself no stranger to lone performance, alluding to the precedent of his solitary practice regime in the liners.

All three selections in the 39-minute program are fully improvised, stream-of-consciousness vehicles, with the reed player utilizing a different horn on each. Ware launches "Methone" on the saxello, essentially a Bb soprano saxophone with an upturned bell, taking a measured stance and essaying building block phrases. He then subjects these phrases to variation and motivic development. Despite occasional multiphonic overtones, he generally sticks to conventional timbres, albeit with a slightly nasal delivery. Though not an overly melodic player, Ware still sporadically veers into a gruff lyricism, spiraling well-turned phrases up through the registers before discarding them in favor of his next fancy. Essentially the same approach imbues "Pallene," resulting in a similar searching feel. Here, though, Ware starts off in more abstract fashion, with barking yelps and muffled cries, this time on stritch, a straight alto variant championed by Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

It's not until the final "Anthe," where Ware unleashes his tenor saxophone, that his familiar huge and all-embracing tone holds court. Although tentative at first, as if testing the ground, Ware is soon glorying in the full range of the horn, exploring then contrasting gut wrenching depth charges with passages of extended whistling falsetto. This cycle of dramatic alternations becomes the dominant theme, with the upper partials an integral part of the conception, rather than a showy effect. Ware closes on a wonderfully sustained legato high note sequence, with the harmonics almost suggesting an eerie second voice. There is something poignant in the cover depiction of a lone figure seated on the stage, but if the physical presence intimates vulnerability, there is none apparent in the music.

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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