On October 18th, David S. Ware passed away just before his 63rd birthday. Ware was known as a vanguard free jazz sax man, but that label doesn’t communicate the passion and brilliance of his work as a player or band leader. The label seems to connote uninhibited blowing, but Ware was a strong, focused and emotive player of exceptional material.
An intellectual, he created smart, challenging music that was at the same time grounded and earthy in its explorations; it’s no coincidence that his phenomenal live album with his long standing David S Ware Quartet (featuring his perfect foil, Matthew Shipp on piano; Guillermo Brown on drums, with his big, spacious sound; and the rich, vibrating bass of William Parker) is called Live in the World. That double disc is required listening for anyone at all interested in this modern golden age of jazz that we live in. The music is stunningly intense and vibrant, with the band members listening and responding to each other so deftly, you can almost see them as the music plays. Together, those four musicians formed one of the great jazz collaborations of the era, a quartet in a league with Charles Lloyd’s New Quartet and the Wayne Shorter Quartet (a comparison that is still valid, even if Ware himself rejected it).
To mark his passing, this week features a trio of songs by the Quartet drawn largely from turn of the century performances, starting out with Muriko’s Blues, a moody, sparse rhythm with a fantastic sax solo over it; followed by Yesterdays from a recent BBC Jazz on 3 remembrance, essentially Ware’s response to Trane’s I Want To Talk About You. And finishing up is a spectacular Aquarian Sound show opener from August of 1999. What you’ll hear in all this material is just how full and potent this group was, how much balance and mutual respect was communicated through every bar of music. Chances are, unless you’re an invested jazz fan, you don’t know Ware’s music. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen. As always, enjoy!