David S. Ware's Onecept was recorded to celebrate his 50th year of playing saxophone; the sessions took place a year after the session's initially planned recording date due to his undergoing a kidney transplant. It follows Saturnian, the 2009 album of a completely improvised solo concert that Ware played using his tenor, a stritch, and a saxello. Those horns are present here too, and like that live date, this studio session is completely improvised on the spot with no previous rehearsal with bassist William Parker and drummer Warren Smith. It marks the first time in his career he's recorded this way. Ware introduces the date with "Book of Krittika" unaccompanied for 53 seconds before Parker enters playing arco elegantly, as Smith employs a timpani, playing sparely, quietly, before bringing a cymbal into play. This is truly free jazz, spontaneous, collectively envisioned, and played with an integrity of spirit that is almost entirely free of overindulgence. On "Celestial" and "Bardo," Ware searches for something out of earshot of the other players momentarily. The rhythm section, rather than trying to fill in the gap in that understanding, simply begins to react to the way his soloing develops, then articulates what he eventually finds. Smith in particular does an outstanding job of finding a place not behind but between Ware and Parker, adjusting his idea flow, and extending it into dialogue. Force, momentum, and dynamic shift around that collectively new voice and something is born into a previously unimagined sound. "Astral Earth" is an extended blues meditation with Ware on stritch where everything is in perfect balance; it's the most beautiful thing here. He begins "Desire Worlds" with an insistent flurry of notes on saxello that is not furious, but busy. Parker adds ballast by bowing a series of deep-register phrases that underscore the frenetic speech; because of the repetitive nature of his playing, he anchors it in mantra-like articulation. Smith finds accent points at the expulsion of Ware's breath, and then uses his notes not to fill, but to push the conversation further in that direction. This is the beauty in this kind of improvisation, when it works as it does here. Far from being a mere blowing session, it is instead a listening session, where everything centers around what these players hear individually and collectively. Certainly there are moments when the dialogue gets a little bottlenecked, but it frees itself with movement and space rather than just force. Ware's development as a player is no longer reliant on his physicality -- though he still possesses it in abundance. Rather, it's his centering on that collective voice, which offers so many dimensions and textures to explore, where he expresses his creativity and mastery of his horns. Onecept is an exciting next step in Ware's musical evolution.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek