David S. Ware

Live in the World

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Very few saxophonists have been capable of replicating the intense transcendental energy generated by the tenor saxophone of John Coltrane, whose unique ability to capture the essence of spirituality imbued his music with a mystical stature that charged his later performances with an almost magical tinge. David S. Ware is one of the few post-Coltrane performers to dip successfully into that well as a basis for expressing a singular vision that builds on the innovations and strategies of the great jazz saxophonist. In a sense, this glorious full-length, three-CD live set sums up Ware's career at the time of release, featuring his core trio with pianist Matthew Shipp and bassist William Parker, supplemented on each CD by a different drummer. Taken from different European concerts in 1998 and in 2003, there is a mix of original tunes, a pop tune, and Ware's second incredible rendition on disc of Sonny Rollins' "Freedom Suite," which is alone worth the purchase price. The first CD, from a concert in Chiasso, Switzerland, in 1998, has Susie Ibarra on drums, with the quartet spinning a take-no-prisoners approach that enervates as it enriches. One of Ware's favorites, "The Way We Were," is given a convincing Albert Ayler-esque treatment that slices, dices, and dissects the melody, and which follows another highlight of the album, the sizzling "Logistic" with its energizing sprint-to-the-finish flavor and some spectacular solos from Shipp and Parker. The middle CD, from a live gig in Terni, Italy, in 2003 (except for the last track, which is from the Chiasso concert), brings in Hamid Drake on drums, completing one of the most formidable rhythm sections of modern times. The final disc, recorded in 2003 in Milano, Italy (except for the last track, which again comes from the Chiasso session), features a live interpretation of Sonny Rollins' "Freedom Suite," arguably the set's highlight. While Ware successfully recorded an earlier studio version with the same personnel on The Freedom Suite, this expanded freewheeling rendition takes the piece to another level with its expansive interpretation, even if the sound is not quite equal to the studio version and there is a slight sprawl that is, in part, a function of a live concert. Guillermo E. Brown holds down the drums chair, as the quartet puts in a magnificent performance, extending the power, range, and virtuosity of the prototype. Ware plays passionately, with an ecstatic, energetic glow, while longtime colleagues Shipp and Parker add brilliant backing and solos. "Pt. 2" of the "Suite" begins with five minutes of the bassist, while Shipp puts in one of the best performances of his career, his fingers pounding with unbounded alacrity. Ware's decision to add the piano to what Rollins conceived as a piano-less trio adds depth and bulk, with Shipp's contributions a big boost. The pianist opens rhapsodically on "Pt. 3," laying the path for Ware to slowly construct his edifice with controlled intensity. "Pt. 4" starts with Shipp stating the theme, quickly followed by a lengthy solo by Brown on drums, joined by Parker on bass, after which Ware adds his voice, respectfully emulating -- though never trying to copy -- the classic performance by Rollins. This set is destined to be a mini-classic, and a critical addition to the discography of David S. Ware.

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