David S. Ware Onecept Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

The sound of an artist purposefully striving to be a better human.

Daniel Spicer 2010

"On this record, the way in which I’m playing, time and space is sort of collapsing. It is folding in on itself and that is bringing on a different reality."

No one could accuse David S. Ware of not taking his work seriously. As these liner notes show, his art is imbued with a yearning intensity, the natural heir to John Coltrane’s searching spirituality. It’s present in every second of this extremely deep trio date, recorded with bassist William Parker and percussionist Warren Smith.

Perhaps that depth of feeling is understandable given that Ware almost didn’t live long enough to make the CD: in 2009 he underwent a kidney transplant that kept him out of action for most of the year. And perhaps that lucky escape also explains the sense of joy that bursts forth from this session in the form of pure spontaneous creation. Unlike most albums he’s made, there were no prior plans or rehearsals. Ware simply turned up with a tenor sax plus two horns he hadn’t played for years – the stritch and the saxello. These three musicians have such mastery of the idiom in which they’re working that they’re able to create nine compelling pieces entirely in the moment, coming together as one impressively coherent statement.

Pieces like Book of Krittika have a haunting strangeness, largely thanks to Smith’s use of looming, cavernous tympani, creating an otherworldliness that Sun Ra first harnessed back in the 1950s via Robert Barry. And Astral Earth, with its spare dabs of bass, almost hints at a slow blues. In fact, underneath the seeming formlessness lurks a respectful, somewhat conventional trio, completely at ease rewriting abstract versions of jazz history. So, Wheel of Life is crisp free jazz with implied swing and rushing momentum, while Anagami even seems to quote from Coltrane’s version of Summertime.

Through it all, Ware’s playing is astonishing, pushing the limits of brain, fingers and equipment, ideas rushing out in a stream of furious, liquid invention, with an almost superhuman precision. But there’s never any sense that this is empty technique or showmanship. It’s the sound of an artist purposefully striving to be a better human.

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