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The path an original voice must take in jazz this century is quite different from that of 50 years ago. Gone are the big labels and covers of TIME magazine. The 'big names' in jazz are institutionalized at universities and Lincoln Center, making records with Willie Nelson and playing covers of Nirvana pop songs.
But all is not lost. The revolution is just not televised in the mainstream. Small artisan labels like AUM Fidelity keep the flame burning with releases like the latest from David S. Ware and his reconstituted quartet. Gone are pianist Matthew Shipp and drummer Guillermo E. Brown. Joining Ware and bassist William Parker are guitarist Joe Morris and drummer Warren Smith. The drummer, born in 1934, has been behind the kit for everyone from Sam Rivers, Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison and Bill Cole to Harry Partch. He supplies, along with Parker, a most solid platform for this recording. For his part, Joe Morris' guitar differs from Shipp's piano in his choice single note runs over the pianist huge chords.
Ware's career has taken him from early work with Cecil Taylor and Andrew Cyrille and recordings on Japan's DIW and Sweden's Silkheart records to a short stint at Columbia. He has always produced solid sessions, playing music that is seemingly larger than life. Shakti is Ware's twenty-third release as a leader and fourth for AUM.
With a recording like Shakti, it's sometimes not possible to take the entire recording in no matter how much distance is taken. Ware's voice, like that of Coltrane, can be at times daunting. Like Coltrane he has explored the outer reaches, done ballad sessions, and on Shakti sets his sights on India. The spiritual side of this record cannot be denied. The title track (in three parts) may be his A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1964), transporting through distinct sections that raise the spiritual and the sanctified. Focusing on Ware's deliverypart Albert Ayler, part Sonny Rollinsshould not mean neglecting Parker's energy. His firm hand on timekeeping deserves a separate spin just to focus on the colors his playing invents.
The ballad "Reflections" is a showcase for Smith's brushwork, playing opposite Ware's husky tone. His constant sweep of energy first propels Ware and later, Morris. "Namah" is a highlight, opening with Ware's kalimba before he picks up his saxophone to play some breathtakingly immaculate notes. This purity along with his capacity to present a very coherent sound throughout, makes for a very satisfying record.