In 2008, when this live concert was recorded, saxophonist David S. Ware
was ill, but concert goers would have no idea of this fact. He has been suffering, since 1999 from kidney failure and eventually had a kidney transplant in 2009. Ware and the latest configuration of his quartet traveled to Toulouse, France, just a few weeks after recording the studio album Shakti
(AUM Fidelity, 2008) in Brooklyn. By the same token, listeners of that release had no idea of Ware's health.
Certainly the reason these listeners were unsuspecting is that Ware displays the same fiery touch heard on his pre-1999 recordings. That same energy jazz that was heard in his earlier quartets and his gig with the Cecil Taylor
Unit in the mid-1970s. You may theorize Ware, like John Coltrane
(1926-1967) before him became aware of his mortality and every action was labeled "urgent." But perhaps not. His performance at the Théâtre Garonne, like Shakti
, is remarkably consistent and methodical. With no evidence from these sounds; it is only now we know he was ill.
This short lived quartet featured Ware's longtime collaborator, bassist William Parker
, plus Joe Morris
' guitar taking over the chordal responsibilities of pianist Matthew Shipp
. The drum chair was held down by Warren Smith
who can be heard with everyone from Gil Evans
to Muhal Richard Abrams. The concert opens with an expanded version of "Crossing Samsara," an ersatz-swinging blues that allows the quartet to find its footing and enough room for Morris and Ware to solo. The concert actually has three takes on "Crossing Samsara." Each version is dominated by Ware's bold voice, raw as Albert Ayler's, yet lyrical. His sound radiates an energy; let's call it a life force. Musicians like Ware, who can draw from those two camps are few and far between. Wedged in between energy jazz is "Reflection" which could easily be mistaken for a Sonny Rollins
' solo. Ware's improvisation is a spontaneous outpouring of countless abstractions and concepts. The saxophonist sets the tempo on "Durga" before giving way to Morris' solo, then opens his energy valve driven on by Smith's drumming. Ware's upper register work on "Namah" balances the dreamy thoroughfare provided by Morris and Parker.
A salute must be directed to label chief Steven Joerg for keeping Ware's music in the forefront of our listening experience since his death in 2012. Joerg first re-released Birth Of A Being
(Hat Hut Records, 1977) in an expanded form on his AUM Fidelity label, and this release marks the fifth in the David S. Ware Archive Series. Like other professionals that are keeping the memories of musicians like Jimmy Lyons
and Marion Brown
, this is indeed a vital task.