Annette Brown, Lifetime The story of June Carter Cash comes to life in the…
- Posted on Mar 18th 2010 5:00PM by Tad Hendrickson
To celebrate this landmark, Ware again performed solo on Saturday, March 12, in front of an intimate invite-only crowd at a spacious private residence in Brooklyn, N.Y. Even though the F train had shut down due to a torrential rainstorm that pelted the Northeast Corridor for most of the weekend, the room was full.
The saxophonist had walked with a limp since a motorcycle accident in his younger years, yet as he entered the room and made his way to the performance area, he looked older than his 60 years. David Ware had long been known as a large man with a big sound, and it would be interesting to see in person if he could reconcile the weakened state he was in with the physical demands of playing an entire set of fully improvised music. Many of this legendary player's past glories were with his landmark quartet that featured charter members William Parker on bass and Matthew Shipp on piano, as well as a succession of drummers. Without a backing band, this would be truly flying through the air without a safety net.
Typically known for his tenor playing, the saxophonist started the set with his public debut on the small sopranino saxophone, which looks like a shorter version of the soprano saxophone. Ware sat as he played, but there was still the bluster that fans had come to know. During this 15-minute segment, the reedist worked his way through the entire sonic spectrum of the instrument. The timbre of this smallest of saxophones, which is a full octave higher than the alto sax, has a shrill Middle Eastern tone at times, particularly in its midrange; yet Ware was able to find some surprisingly robust bass notes that seemed to pop from the bell of the horn. When he did go into the higher range, the room became almost claustrophobic as a quick succession of short, jagged lines ricocheted off every surface, building up to a discordant crescendo before the set came to a soft conclusion.
The second piece featured tenor sax. From the first note, it was obvious why it is such a popular instrument -- the warm, earthy tone, the volume it can generate, and the range of this horn were all on display. The wind may have been howling outside, and was easily audible to the audience as it sat in silence, but no one plays like David S. Ware, new kidney or not. What was apparent, however, was that Ware didn't have the stamina that he once did. There was no circular breathing displayed here, which was his bravura signature move where he would blow continuously for minutes at a time while simultaneously breathing in through his nose.
The solo setting did allow for listeners to really get inside the sound of the horns. On the tenor, in particular, there were overtones and undertones that surfaced beside the main notes. The tenor also allowed for a wide variety of textures that could be rough or smooth, airy and full of breath, or rich notes that where round and meaty. At other times, the saxophonist almost sounded like an assemblage of birds and animals: Birds sang, chickens clucked, geese honked, cows mooed, and so on. There were even light, delicate melodies that serenaded the room as beautifully as Lester Young could have.
The entire set lasted about 45 minutes. In that time, Ware gave the room a lecture on the entirety of possibilities that come from a saxophone. During the Q&A following the performance, the saxophonist talked extensively about his connection to transcendental meditation, something he has practiced for nearly 40 years, and his attempts to simply "let the music come to my fingers." He spoke about the difficulties of creating improvised music -- he's more interested in improvising these days than playing preconceived compositions -- which seemed in marked contrast to the skilled playing the audience had just seen and heard.
While this tenor titan admitted that he is still on the physical rebound, there was no doubt that the creativity (which was always equal to the intensity) was still fully intact. With the promise of more solo shows in the future, it will be interesting to track the changes as he either regains his strength or further refines his approach within the confines of his current situation. Either way, it'll be inspirational to see and hear, just as this night was.
Here's what our friends at All About Jazz have been up to:
John Pizzarelli: A Tribute to Duke Ellington
Monkadelphia: All Monk, All the Time
Eddie Prevost: Looking Back, Looking Forward
'Pathways,' Dave Holland Octet
'Mwaliko,' Lionel Loueke
'Antibes,' Greg Reitan
'Boom Tic Boom,' Allison Miller
'Words Project III Miniatures,' Sam Sadigursky:
Remembrance: Paying Tribute Through the Art of Jazz Composition
North Coast Brewing Up Some Monk
'Contextualizin',' Ian Carey Quintet