The first live recordings from the master saxophonist's longstanding quartet.
John Eyles 2005
With pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker and various drummers (most recently Guillermo E. Brown), David S. Ware has created a modern day variant of the classic Coltrane quartet. Like that quartet, they produce fine studio albums, but their music blossoms into something exceptional when explored at greater length in front of a live audience. Now - finally - here is documentary evidence, a massive three CD set, from three concerts each featuring a different drummer, one dating from 1998 in Switzerland and two from 2003 in Italy. These are the quartet's first (legally) released live recordings.
The difference is typified by the opener, "Aquarian Sound", with its prolonged introduction driven by Parker's simple repetitive bass figure; compared to the studio version, the foursome take far longer to build the tension before allowing some release with the entry of Ware. As a result, the piece is far better than the studio version; more dramatic and exciting.
Although the quartet may be modelled on Coltrane's, Ware's own playing has an edge and stridency in the tradition of Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders. Unfettered, Ware can be hard work for some listeners, as he veers off into the outer limits of his instrument. The joy of this quartet is that it provides structures which keep Ware focussed, whilst his own instincts still pull him towards freedom and exploration.
The resulting tension works to great effect, amply demonstrated on the extended version of Sonny Rollins' "Freedom Suite". Recorded in Milan, it stretches Rollins' 20 minute original to over an hour. Whereas Rollins only had bass and drums in support, the inclusion of Shipp here is crucial. While Ware gets plenty of blowing space, Shipp is always just a chord away from getting things focussed again.
This is currently top of my list of the year's best. A joyful noise; highly recommended.