Wednesday, November 11, 2015

CD Review: David S. Ware/ Apogee - Birth of a Being

David S. Ware/Apogee
Birth of a Being
(AUM Fidelity)

Birth of a Being was originally issued in 1979 by hat Hut Records, making it David S. Ware's first release as a leader. Apogee, however, was originally conceived as a collective trio, with pianist Cooper-Moore and drummer Marc Edwards, who all crossed paths at the Berklee School (now College) of Music in the late '60s, all interested in playing free music. While much of the music indeed sounds like group improvisation, Ware comes across as the leader. With one exception, Cooper-Moore and Edwards don't play unless Ware is playing, and the tenor saxophonist never stops. What's most interesting about the album - which now includes a second disc of previously unreleased material - relates to the focus in Ware's performance. The assuredness he displayed up until his death in 2012 was already in place in 1977, when these recordings were made.

Ware and Edwards had joined Cecil Taylor's group prior to these recordings, which actually served as more of a reunion of Apogee. After playing throughout Boston and relocating to New York (where they opened for Ware's former teacher Sonny Rollins), the trio concept was put on hold, and Cooper-Moore had moved back to Virginia, where he began a long career of making his own instruments. Back together in the studio, the group reignites the fires that got them started nearly a decade earlier.

Considering it that way, it's easy to hear the joy these three friends felt. Edwards sounds especially vicious, frequently pounding away in a machine-gun-style attack. Cooper-Moore straddles Taylor-esque runs on the piano, but lets a melodic sense run through as well.

Ware sounds especially enthralling because, while his vocabulary is set, he spends a little more time on the ground, rather than just lifting off into the stratosphere. The best example actually comes at the end of disc two in "Solo," nearly seven minutes of exploration on a theme that reveals his kinship to Rollins.

But the first piece to greet listeners is "Prayer," a gorgeous testimony of all that would come in his lifetime. Cooper-Moore plays the sanctified rubato chords, as Ware builds from the throaty theme to sanctification. Disc two contains an alternate take of the tune, well worth it since the saxophonist always excelled when he started with a structure and gradually pulled away from its gravitational force. (Memories of "Aquarian Sound," on 1992's Flight of i, my introduction to Ware's oeuvre.) Even as the group spends a good deal of time blowing freely, some sort of melodic base runs through the tracks, usually a melody line from Ware, which belts out in his authoritative tone.

"Stop Start" plays on the jazz tradition tradition of "trading fours," though in this case, the musicians aren't limited to four bars in which to strut their stuff. Each member takes turns in an unrestricted solo space, before they come together and Ware signs off. He and Cooper-Moore would revisit this idea years later on Planetary Unknown with bassist William Parker and drummer Muhammad Ali. Cooper-Moore also gets a solo track with the newly discovered "Ain't Nobody Going to Turn Me Around, listed on the cover as "Ashimba," the name given to a marimba the musician built himself.

More than just a bookend in the David S. Ware discography, Birth of a Being introduces a musician who apparently knew what lay in his future before he was even a teenager. It's mandatory listening not just for fans of the tenor saxophonist but for anyone interested in the trajectory of '70s free/loft jazz.

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