Saturday, March 07, 2020

CD Review: David S. Ware New Quartet - Théȃtre Garonne, 2008

David S. Ware New Quartet
Théȃtre Garonne, 2008

David S. Ware wasn't in the best health when his quartet journeyed to Toulouse, France in 2008. In his liner notes, guitarist Joe Morris says that Ware reluctantly accepted rides on carts and wheelchairs though the airport on the trip, even if it meant he was acknowledging that his kidney problems were taking a greater toll on his day-to-day activities. It was surely a hard realization to make, but it meant that Ware was saving his strength for his performance, which doesn't hint at any indication of what the brawny tenor saxophonist might have been dealing with offstage.

Ware's New Quartet was documented on the studio album Shakti, but that group is arguably overshadowed by the number of releases the tenor saxophonist made with his longstanding group of pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker and drummers that included Whit Dickey and Susie Ibarra. Théȃtre Garonne, 2008 catches the band road testing the material they recorded just a few weeks prior for Shakti

Along with bassist Parker and guitarist Morris, the group is completed by veteran drummer Warren Smith. Whereas Matthew Shipp's piano filled vast areas of sonic space in the original group, the new quartet has more of a sonically open feel with Morris as the second melodic foil. His clean lines reinforce the groove of "Crossing Samsara," a 26-minute performance that gets divided into two tracks to give equal space to the two themes.

Morris might not play with distortion but he doesn't play it safe, either. He responds to Ware's initiative with some aggressive lines in the upper register that fit right in "during the first "Samsara." The same thing happens in "Durga." After stating the theme with Morris, the saxophonist steps back to let the guitarist explore the possibilities of the line. He responds passionately, occasionally touching back down on the melody to clarify. Smith's fleet movement across his kit keeps the music moving rapidly. He and Parker, heavy as always but never overbearing, get some quality duo time at the opening of "Namah." 

Ware always had a way with overtones and he certainly did on that May evening in 2008. The final solo in "Reflection" finds him working with several overtone combinations, manipulating his horn like a guitarist would with feedback, keeping the intensity flowing. The results might intense in execution but Ware never forgets that he's playing a ballad. Elsewhere during the set he reveals his skill with gruffer tenor sounds, akin to R&B honkers. Considering what he was dealing with at the time - giving himself dialysis treatments in hotel rooms after the show - it's all the more impressive.

Of course Théȃtre Garonne, 2008 shouldn't be regarded as an album that's good despite Ware's health issues. The quartet was inspired that night because they were all thinking on the same wavelength. While Morris states that he didn't get to hang out with Ware much offstage aside from airport rides, they clearly had some deep discussions on the bandstand.

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