In honor of what would have been his 70th birthday, this is the fifth volume in AUM Fidelity's David S. Ware archival series. It showcases the collective abilities of his "new" quartet with guitarist Joe Morris and drummer Warren Smith joining the saxophonist and returning bassist William Parker. This group had been together less than a year at the time of this performance and had just completed recording the saxophonist's Shakti. Ware was also beginning to have acute health problems. Suffering from long-term kidney disease, he had been undergoing daily peritoneal dialysis for a decade, and after that proved ineffective, he had a kidney transplant a year later. On tour, Ware had been convinced by his bandmates to be driven by red cap carts in airports and had taken to sitting in a chair on-stage in order to preserve his energy for playing. From this performance, however, you'd never know he was ailing.
The material is drawn from Shakti, whose compositions provided Ware with building blocks for his new group's still-developing language, and this is clear from the outset in "Crossing Samsara, Pt. 1" as Morris' expansive counterpoint and extrapolative chord voicings create a different kind of support for Ware than pianist Matthew Shipp did for 17 years. Morris is an empath as well as an ensemble player; he feels everything, from timbre and texture to movement, tension, and tone. He is also a (brilliant) soloist and a second frontline player for Ware who, with this group, offers songlike themes as referents. In "Crossing Samsara, Pt. 2," the driving saxophone intro is a pulse answered by Parker, then Morris, before they drop out, introducing one of Ware's powerful, intricately constructed unaccompanied solos. When the band reenters, Morris is flexing a bluesy vamp developed from Ware's theme, with Smith surrounding him with rolls, skittering snares, and fluid tom-tom and cymbal play. Parker prods and punches at the center before Morris begins bleeding his own solo to the edge. "Durga" is announced by blues sax and whispering cymbals. Ware repeats his angular phases as though hypnotized even as he slightly alters them to discover and elucidate the notes hidden between cadences. Morris enters by embracing the riff, then Parker pushes the guitarist to the fore in a tough hypnotic solo before Ware re-enters, lifting the band with him and making room for Parker to turn things upside down with a new arco passage that transfigures the shard-like harmony. "Reflections" is equal parts ballad and lullaby, with soulful yet spectral playing from Ware. "Namah" commences with an abstract, folk-inspired bass solo that, as drums and guitar pick at it, shapeshifts into a flood of arco improvising accompanied by passionate, expressionistic guitar chords as Ware cascades over the top with feral honks, squeals, and bleating. Theatre Garonne, 2008 doubles the output by this amazing quartet, and reveals the forceful yet poetic interplay at its heart. This ultimately stands with the best of Ware's live work.