The critical buzz aroused by David S. Ware's work with Andrew Cyrille and Cecil Taylor in the '70s had, by the late '90s, turned into a consonant roar. New York's collective jazz press -- always on the lookout for the music's next messiah -- crowned Ware the "King of Free Jazz" on the basis of his energetic quartet albums from the mid-'90s. Ware's band (with Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass, and, variously, Susie lbarra, Marc Edwards, or Whit Dickey on drums) became the decade's avant-garde supergroup by consensus, and Ware is indeed a splendid artist. His saxophone technique is total; unlike a good many free players, Ware does not base his style on any particular technical shortcoming or theoretical misunderstanding. His knowledge of functional harmony is above and beyond that of virtually any other free saxophonist. He's learned both the music and the horn up and down, inside and out, from the bottom up. In this respect, he's a true heir to Coltrane, who also based his free work on a comprehensive knowledge of his materials. Indeed, Ware's typical manner of performance -- modal/free, rubato, high-energy collective improvisation -- stems directly from Meditations-era Coltrane. Ware's tenor sound is huge, centered, and multi-hued, all up and down its range. His facility is great, his imagination broad, and his expressive abilities immense. And no saxophonist now active plays with more unadulterated passion. Without question, he is a very, very fine, maybe even great player. His band, however, while certainly capable, has not proved to be on his level. Shipp is an excellent, Cecil Taylor-cum-McCoy Tyner pianist, but his best work has come as a leader of his own trio. With Ware, he often seems at a loss as to what to say in the midst of the band's hyperkinetic collective improvisations -- overwhelmed, or so it seems, by Ware's volcanic passion. Ware's finest, most complementary drummer has been Marc Edwards, a more roughly hewn and spontaneous player than the glib lbarra and the coloristic Dickey. Of Ware's bandmates, only Parker is his equal as a creative presence. William Parker generates energy like no other bassist; a band with Parker on bass doesn't need a drummer, so powerful is his percussive drive. Ware played alto, tenor, and bari saxes in his teens. In the late '60s, he attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston. There he formed a band called Apogee, which played around Boston until 1973, when the band moved en masse to New York. In 1974, Ware performed in a large Cecil Taylor aggregation at Carnegie Hall. The mid-'70s found Ware a member of drummer Andrew Cyrille's group, in a trio with trumpeter Raphe Malik, and on tour with Taylor. In 1977, he played in bop pianist Barry Harris' band; the two recorded a duo album that same year. Beginning in the late '80s, he renewed his association with Cyrille and played on the drummer's highly acclaimed Black Saint release Metamusicians' Stomp. As a leader, Ware's recording career began in earnest with a pair of releases on the Silkheart label: 1988's Passage to Music and 1990's Great Bliss, Vol. 1. In the early '90s, Ware began recording for the Japanese DIW label; that company's 1991 release, Flight of I, was distributed by Columbia and remains in many ways the tenorist's most stunning work. The late '90s had Ware recording with his quartet for a number of independent companies, including most notably the alternative rock (and now-defunct) Homestead label. He signed to Columbia for 1998's Go See the World, issuing Third Ear Recitation on DIW/Koch later that same year. Surrendered followed on Columbia in the spring of 2000. While continuing his rapid-fire release schedule, he released Corridors & Parallels in September 2001 on the AUM Fidelity label. Freedom Suite followed in 2002, Threads in 2003, Live in the World in 2005, BalladWare in 2006, and Renunciation in 2007. Shakti, featuring the three-part title suite, appeared in 2009. The live solo recording Saturnian: Solo Saxophones, Vol. 1 followed in 2010, as did the trio release Onecept with William Parker and Warren Smith, on bass and drums respectively. 2011 was a big year for Ware. First, Aum Fidelity issued Planetary Unknown, which placed the saxophonist as a leader in the company of Cooper-Moore, Parker, and Muhammad Ali (the drummer, not the boxer). In August, the documentary David S. Ware: A World of Sound, by director Amine Kouider was screened on the David Lynch Foundation's website dlf.tv; and in October, Organica (Solo Saxophones, Vol. 2) was released by Elastic Arts. ~ Chris KelseyPortions of Content Provided by Rovi Corporation.
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