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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

David S. Ware Trio - Live in New York, 2010 (AUM Fidelity, 2017) ****½

By Paul Acquaro

I've had this new release from the David S. Ware Trio on heavy rotation for the past week. I do have a pile of other new records and a bunch of CDs sitting on my coffee table, plus several digital albums to contend with too, but they're going to have to patiently wait their turn - this one is just too good to interrupt. Recorded at the Blue Note in NYC at a one-night engagement in early October 2010, the occasion was a concert celebrating the recent release of Onecept, which featured this same piano-less trio of Ware on stritch (a straight alto sax) and tenor sax, William Parker on bass, and Warren Smith on drums. 

The music comes to us as a part of the ongoing archive series from AUM Fidelity. Diagnosed in 1999 with kidney failure, Ware had received a transplant in 2009, and passed away in 2012, but in the years between delivered several powerful recordings. While the album's liner notes mention the hardship that Ware endured to play, his music transcended any physical limitations. 

Two of the most striking elements of the double CD set is, first, the piano-less setting: Ware has a lot of space to fill, and many directions in which he can go, and second, the heavy use of the stritch. The horn has a reedier, more constricted sound than the typical alto and Ware uses its sound to great effect, creating an atmosphere laced with middle eastern modalities. The opening moments of disc one finds Ware introducing the evening's music, solo. Building layer upon layer, he takes the music from a spacious and lonely opening figure to a drenching downpour of notes. The impact is palpable when Parker and Smith join in after about five minutes. Ware has drawn the audience in, focused solely on his lone sax, and when the sonic pallette opens up, it is a thing of pure joy. Parker's confident and supportive bass along with Smith's tuneful percussion ably fills the space, lifting Ware even higher on a musical tide swelling from below. 

The sets are broken down into a total of 7 tracks with several sub-parts to many of them. The aforementioned first track set the night's adventurous tone, it is an effective introduction with moments of both gathering storm and meditative calm. By the time the group begins the second track, the atmosphere is charged and ready. After a restrained, albeit tense, build up the music is soon on an exhilaratingly tumultuous roll as waves of energy pitch the music forward and then pull it back with a sweeping undertow. Ware additionally switches to the tenor sax and the instruments' full bodied sound brings on a bolder musical persona. 

The second CD, presumably the second set of the night, kicks off with Ware back on the stritch and solo, exploring again more exotic melodies. A crash of cymbals and a rumble from the bass ratchets up the intensity as Ware elaborates on his mysterious melody. Parker's solo, about eight minutes into the third track is a captivating tapestry of doublestops and frantically bowed passages, the energy and simplicity is genius (the audience agrees as they burst into applause). Ware soon rejoins, matching Parker's intensity, delivering a wild coda with technique and velocity that boggles the mind. '#4' opens with a solo from Smith, playing with a wide range of rhythmic ideas, eventually leading Ware into some of his most emotionally intense playing of the night. 

Before Ware passed away, he released Planetary Unknown featuring long-term musical acquaintance pianist Cooper-Moore. Prior to the release of this trio's Onecept was the quartet outing Shakti with guitarist Joe Morris. So, this archive recording one of the few recordings feature this lean trio. It's a treasure trove of music - highly recommended.