|DSW by Peter Gannushkin|
Over the past several years, I’ve come back to Ware’s music with greater interest and appreciation. His recordings with Shipp, Parker, and drummers Marc D. Edwards, Whit Dickey, Susie Ibarra and Guillermo E. Brown are treasured documents of contemporary music. His recent solo recordings and Planetary Unknown discs (with Parker, drummer Muhammad Ali and pianist Cooper-Moore) are absolutely incredible. There’s some really nice stuff with Joe Morris and Warren Smith that’s well worth hearing, too. And though the vinyl has been in rotation here at the offices of Ni Kantu for many years, it surprises me that the lone commercially released recording of Apogee (1979’s Birth of a Being, with Cooper-Moore and Edwards) has never made it to CD. It’s a motherfucker.
What strikes me now (and what didn’t always strike younger ears) is how consistently lyrical Ware’s music is. At times it certainly takes on the notion of the Abstract Sublime, in terms of confronting a vast solitude and rejoicing, confronting and accepting aloneness before the universe and giving a spiritual notion to being “Alone Together.” At other times, Ware’s music and that of his colleagues plays out as a contrast between whorls and stoic monoliths – perhaps that’s where the curious penchant for repeated phrases comes in. But lyric and swing, as well as a tremendous blues feeling, are endemic to this music as far-out as it might get.
It’s ironic that I didn’t appreciate those elements when they were presented to me in earlier listening sessions, because that was precisely what I took to in listening to Ware’s forebears. I suppose that with some people’s music it just takes time. Of course, the fact that age/experience/mortality brings out a certain kind of patient nuance as artists grow older is also worth noting – we hear something different in later Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Ornette, Bill Dixon, and Cecil than we do in their earlier music. Ware’s recent recordings are full of this, or at least one interprets them as such, made with the composer’s life in the balance. They are both feisty and reflective, which are pretty natural feelings when encountering one’s mortality. Ware made his first recording in 1968, as a sideman with Boston altoist Abdul-Hannan, and was active throughout the 1970s in the Northeast, playing with Cecil, drummer Andrew Cyrille, William Parker, and in his own groups, though it wasn’t until the 1990s that a broader audience came to his work. This was around the time that “free jazz” was entering the consciousness of independent music fans as an alternative to mainstream jazz, or even punk rock, and imbued with the latter’s values of high energy, political consciousness, and self-expression. The appeal of Ware and his Quartet in this climate seems now like a no-brainer.
Following years of dialysis and a kidney transplant, David S. Ware passed last night, October 18, 2012. He was 62. At the time I was taking in the music of altoist Jemeel Moondoc, another loft-jazz figure who has enjoyed a somewhat recent renaissance, at The Stone. His new quartet with trumpeter Matt Lavelle (out of the Woody Shaw/Charles Tolliver bag), bassist Henry Grimes and an elegantly swinging Newman Taylor Baker really brought it. With more rehearsal and gigs under their belt, this quartet could be the reprisal of Muntu that some of us have been hoping for. Afterwards on my way home I met and had a wonderful conversation with tenorman Kalaparusha, who often plays at the 14th St./Union Square 4/5/6 stop. It was a night of giants, and the music in the air was sublime. Whether we knew it at the time or not, we were celebrating (as Muhal Richard Abrams titled it) Things to Come from Those Now Gone.
Planetary Unknown Live at Jazzfestival Saalfelden 2011 (Aum Fidelity):