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

Nic Jones By

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This entirely solo music was captured for posterity at an AUM Fidelity label showcase in October, 2009; Ware's first live performance after a kidney transplant. Marking a dynamic return, it maps out yet another strand of Ware's artistry just as Threads (Thirsty Ear, 2003) did. Ware may be best known for his quartet work, it's clear that this is but one facet of his overarching vision.

He expands his instrumental arsenal here to take in the saxello and the stritch, as well as his customary tenor sax, and the album's three pieces pan out in that order. In Ware's hands, the stritch projects like a cross between a soprano sax and an oboe, but it's also clear that he's one of those infrequent players who intrinsically grasps any given reed instrument's characteristics and plays accordingly. "Methone" may be alive with Ware's customary kinetic energy, but there's an uncharacteristic measure of reflection as well. For all the strings of scarcely inflected notes that have always been a part of his vocabulary it's also clear that the moment is something to which Ware is reconciled, leavening the need to blow his brains out.

By comparison, "Pallene" is more intriguing, not least because Ware's approach to the saxello—an instrument long viewed as the late Elton Dean's exclusive preserve—results in a sound similar to Anthony Braxton's alto sax, albeit with all the differences in their respective approaches still in place. Given the nature of both men's artistry it could hardly be any other way, and given the blend of momentum—and accommodation of the silence that marks this piece—it's to be hoped that Ware picks up this horn the next time he records.

Finally, seasoned Ware devotees will be pleased to know that his extraordinary tenor sax tone is still in place on "Anthe," where an amalgam of Joe Henderson and Pharoah Sanders superficially springs to mind. Such points of reference have no lasting significance, however; Ware is at his most agitated on his customary horn, although here—exposed as he is in a way unlike any other setting—he reaches into the lower depths of the tenor's range, drawing out that measure of lyricism which seems to be an increasingly significant aspect of his art.

Track Listing: Methone; Pallene; Anthe.

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

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

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