"Ware's trio soars, moving through the reed man's straightforward, fairly open, or ingeniously labyrinthian tunes and arrangements. His tunes and approach seem to court catalyzation, a state into which Parker and Edwards seem eager to enter. Ware's trio not only digs in but, more importantly, lets go. And it is that action that makes for magic music."
Milo Fine, Cadence, October 1989
But mush is never the subject here. The tears that foam up through that tone areas old as plantation field hollers, as old as even the barbaric recognition primitive man saw in the distance between pain and pleasure, between the acceptance of affection and the rejection of tenderness. The conditions of which Ware's music speaks are far beyond the most simple-minded contexts or the most literal explanations of human endeavor. Where there is struggle heard in the music, where there is perhaps anger, where there is deep mourning for an intangible body of elusive information, where the saxophone arches up over the rhythm section or merges with it for undulating blocks of sound, there is always the audible proof of great skill. This man is no charlatan; charlatans never get their instruments to sound as he does, nor are they capable of the calling, keening, singing passages served on such a big invisible platter of tone. Everything one hears in Ware's playing is the result of long hours of practice, great diligence and care in the production of sound.
Ware is clearly a man who has heard the sound of such masters as Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, John Gilmore, and the most ardent primitive of the '60s – Albert Ayler. I never believed that you could play if you didn't work on your saxophone technique. You just have to practice. That's all there is to it. I have always been like that, and people have always commented on my tone. I have always been into the sound of the saxophone. All of the saxophone players I have ever appreciated have that in their music. They all have a tone. I think I have one by now, too. But the most important thing about sound is how you use it in different situations. What I'm looking for now is all of the best ways to use my sound and to put that sound together with different moods and different kinds of grooves that will give me a chance to get at the kinds of elements I always appreciated in the people who gave something special to the music.
What Ware is after is the way to utilize the conceptions of musics he likes, not the literal ways in which those conceptions are executed. That is of the utmost importance in the fashioning of an individual style: knowing that there is a big difference between the way an idea is executed and the idea itself. In Ware's playing, never far below the surface is a substantial understanding of the way Coleman Hawkins got sound out of the saxophone, of what Sonny Rollins was after in all the remarkable permutations of his personality, of the shout that Coltrane brought (as Roy Haynes pointed out) from the church
Even though there aren't literal uses of the forms from the past, one almost always hears the contemplative intensity of the blues, the reverential vibrato of the spiritual, the rugged phrasing counterpointed by big sweeps of liquid tone, and always a determined appreciation of vitality, whether whispered or screamed, slipped up on or snatched. Such qualities are the ones that attracted master drummer Andrew Cyrille to Ware, whom he has known since the middle seventies and with whom he performed in his own band, from then through the early eighties. "He is a natural tenor player whose gifts are plentiful and just needs the opportunity to explore the gamut of his talents.
When he worked in my band, he brought some interesting ideas to the bandstand. He and I used to hang out together and we went to Europe for a couple of tours. He's on my albums Celebration, Junction, Meta-Musician Stomp, and Special People. David was one of the ones who was always on or before time to rehearsal. Technically, he was always on top of the music.
"David is a reflective and meditative type of personality, but at the same time full of fire, with a clear sense of direction. He's a reserved personality and somewhat reticent until you get to know him. David is also of the mystic breed. Sonny Rollins is his mentor. I have a tape of him and Sonny Rollins playing and there are places where you can't tell them spart. That's how talented and attentive to nuances he is. "David is also a clean liver and doesn't have any interest in smoking, drinking, drugs."
Those talents and concerns were nurtured through a long process of development. Born November 7, 1949 in Plainfield, NJ., Ware began playing music around the age of eleven, performing on alto and baritone saxophones as well as bass in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood School System. On his own, Ware took up the tenor and worked on it away from school. At school, however, Ware was always progressing and getting experience in marching bands, dance bands, concert bands, all-state bands and orchestras. At the age of 14, in the summer of 1964, Ware spent a good number of evenings listening to Sonny Rollins at the Five Spot in Manhattan, or at the Village Vanguard, or the Village Gate. "Every time he played, I tried to be there. Sonny was very nice to me and was always encouraging me. He would write me letters around that time. I don't remember now what was in them except that they were helpful in keeping me serious about music. He was really an inspirational musician."
Ware continued his studies and moved to Boston, where he lived from 1967 to 1973, playing at Boston University, on college radio, local music festivals, and at The Black Avant Garde Coffee House. During the early 1970s, he began practicing with Rollins, who was then living in Brooklyn. "Quite a few times, we practiced at his place in Brooklyn, or he would rent a loft and we would practice there, or when I had a place on Canal Street in New York.
He even invited me down to play with my band opposite him for a set at the Vanguard in 1972. But when we were practicing together, we would just play. No tunes or anything. He never plays any things that had traditional melodies. Even if I did, he would just blow. Those where definitely inspirational experiences. Sonny Rollins – what else can you say?"
From that point on, Ware began to move into the higher echelon of the period's avant garde. He performed with Andrew Cyrille's group, with Cecil Taylor's big band at Carnegie Hall in 1974, including US, European and Canadian tours in 1976 and 1977, with the bands of Milford Graves, Beaver Harris, with Cecil Taylor's Unit as a regular member, and with his own groups at lofts like Studio RivBea and Environ.
Ware began to get something of a reputation as one of the most powerful younger players, but most importantly, he was able to show off, particularly in his own bands, the interest in creating his own version of the traditional elements of the music. His experience playing with musicians in Boston such as Michael Brecker and Bob Neloms had given him another angle from which to look at the music, given the involvement each of them had with more traditional styles than the one Ware was then working on. His lessons with Joe Viola and Charlie Mariano were also helpful, as were his experiences in big bands conducted by Herb Pomeroy.
At this point, Ware has at his command a size-able talent and is intent on making good use of it. "Over the last few years I have been working on slowing my stuff down and writing music that will give me the variety I hear in my head. I have always listened closely to the masters and have always wanted to let something I like come in through my ears and get put together another way through the forces of my own musical nervous system."
This recording is good proof of what Ware has under control at this point. One of the most interesting things about it is that though he had only been playing the stritch and the saxello all of six months when he took his trio into the studio, he already had superbly broad and controlled tones on each of them, tones that sat well next to that of his tenor saxophone.
The moods of the songs are interesting in that a number of them start out of tempo, either with a grieving songfulness or a mood of majesty quite unusual for the school Ware is associated with; then the music usually moves into a faster tempo, sometimes even a different meter. The title track is a good introduction to his work, not only for Ware's improvising but for the almost obesely pungent sound of bassist William Parker and the totally sympathetic drums of Marc Edwards.
Throughout, Ware shows that what he is after is much more demanding of him and of his musicians than the random saxophone playing projected by the limited owners of instruments who have so obscured the careers of many of their betters.
But David S. Ware is not to be daunted. He knows just what he wants to get from music and from his instruments. If the listener is patient and diligent, close listenings to this music will reap a much bigger reward than you might expect.
1. An Ancient Formula 05:50
2. Ancient Visitors 07:35
3. Passage to Music 10:51
4. African Secrets 10:52
5. The Elders Path 13:24
6. Phonetic Hymn 09:06
7. Mystery 11:47
David S. Ware tenor sax, saxello, stritch
William Parker bass
Marc Edwards drums