|| David S. Ware Trio
Passage to Music
Cat. No.: SHCD113 *SOLD OUT*
David S. Ware tenor sax, saxello, stritch
William Parker bass
Marc Edwards drums
1. An Ancient Formula (David S. Ware) 6:00
2. Ancient Visitors (David S. Ware) 7:30
3. Passage to Music (David S. Ware) 10:46
4. African Secrets (David S. Ware) 10:47
5. The Elders Path (David S. Ware) 13:20
6. Phonetic Hymn (David S. Ware) 9:00
7. Mystery (David S. Ware) 11:43
Total time: 69:06
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"Ware's trio soars, moving through the reed man's straightforward, fairly
open, or ingeniously labyrinthian tunes and arrangements. His tunes and approach
seem to court catalyzation, a state into which Parker and Edwards seem eager to
enter. Ware's trio not only digs in but, more importantly, lets go. And it is
that action that makes for magic music."
Milo Fine, Cadence, October 1989
David S. Ware is a man who understands the communicative powers of the saxophone,
the sonic weight and the translucence to harsh textures that have made the instrument
so fundamental to the idiom of Afro-American improvising. The substantial girth
of his tone, especially on the tenor, separates him from those who have no more
than a counterfeit connection to the music which evolved in the wake of Ornette
Coleman's quartet opening at New York's Five Spot in November of 1959. Ware draws
such rich beauty from his instruments through the most rudimentary of all elements
individual timbre. Within that timbre we hear a lyricism poignantly soured by
the memory of times hard on the heart. But there is also wilfully primitive form
given to an evident receptiveness to mystery, not to mention the feeling of disastrous
disappointments, or of nearly hysterical jot. There is even a luminous stoicism
that merges with the swallowed sobs of a far from insensitive soul.
But mush is never the subject here. The tears that foam up through that tone
areas old as plantation field hollers, as old as even the barbaric recognition
primitive man saw in the distance between pain and pleasure, between the acceptance
of affection and the rejection of tenderness. The conditions of which Ware's music
speaks are far beyond the most simple-minded contexts or the most literal explanations
of human endeavor. Where there is struggle heard in the music, where there is
perhaps anger, where there is deep mourning for an intangible body of elusive
information, where the saxophone arches up over the rhythm section or merges with
it for undulating blocks of sound, there is always the audible proof of great
skill. This man is no charlatan; charlatans never get their instruments to sound
as he does, nor are they capable of the calling, keening, singing passages served
on such a big invisible platter of tone. Everything one hears in Ware's playing
is the result of long hours of practice, great diligence and care in the production
Ware is clearly a man who has heard the sound of such masters as Coleman Hawkins,
Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, John Gilmore, and the most ardent primitive of the
'60s Albert Ayler. I never believed that you could play if you didn't work
on your saxophone technique. You just have to practice. That's all there is to
it. I have always been like that, and people have always commented on my tone.
I have always been into the sound of the saxophone. All of the saxophone players
I have ever appreciated have that in their music. They all have a tone. I think
I have one by now, too. But the most important thing about sound is how you use
it in different situations. What I'm looking for now is all of the best ways to
use my sound and to put that sound together with different moods and different
kinds of grooves that will give me a chance to get at the kinds of elements I
always appreciated in the people who gave something special to the music.
What Ware is after is the way to utilize the conceptions of musics he likes,
not the literal ways in which those conceptions are executed. That is of the utmost
importance in the fashioning of an individual style: knowing that there is a big
difference between the way an idea is executed and the idea itself. In Ware's
playing, never far below the surface is a substantial understanding of the way
Coleman Hawkins got sound out of the saxophone, of what Sonny Rollins was after
in all the remarkable permutations of his personality, of the shout that Coltrane
brought (as Roy Haynes pointed out) from the church. Even though there aren't
literal uses of the forms from the past, one almost always hears the contemplative
intensity of the blues, the reverential vibrato of the spiritual, the rugged phrasing
counterpointed by big sweeps of liquid tone, and always a determined appreciation
of vitality, whether whispered or screamed, slipped up on or snatched.
Such qualities are the ones that attracted master drummer Andrew Cyrille to Ware,
whom he has known since the middle seventies and with whom he performed in his
own band, from then through the early eighties. "He is a natural tenor player
whose gifts are plentiful and just needs the opportunity to explore the gamut
of his talents. When he worked in my band, he brought some interesting ideas to
the bandstand. He and I used to hang out together and we went to Europe for a
couple of tours. He's on my albums Celebration, Junction, Meta-Musician
Stomp, and Special People. David was one of the ones who was always
on or before time to rehearsal. Technically, he was always on top of the music.
"David is a reflective and meditative type of personality, but at the same
time full of fire, with a clear sense of direction. He's a reserved personality
and somewhat reticent until you get to know him. David is also of the mystic breed.
Sonny Rollins is his mentor. I have a tape of him and Sonny Rollins playing and
there are places where you can't tell them spart. That's how talented and attentive
to nuances he is. "David is also a clean liver and doesn't have any interest
in smoking, drinking, drugs."
Those talents and concerns were nurtured through a long process of development.
Born November 7, 1949 in Plainfield, NJ., Ware began playing music around the
age of eleven, performing on alto and baritone saxophones as well as bass in the
Scotch Plains-Fanwood School System. On his own, Ware took up the tenor and worked
on it away from school. At school, however, Ware was always progressing and getting
experience in marching bands, dance bands, concert bands, all-state bands and
orchestras. At the age of 14, in the summer of 1964, Ware spent a good number
of evenings listening to Sonny Rollins at the Five Spot in Manhattan, or at the
Village Vanguard, or the Village Gate. "Every time he played, I tried to
be there. Sonny was very nice to me and was always encouraging me. He would write
me letters around that time. I don't remember now what was in them except that
they were helpful in keeping me serious about music. He was really an inspirational
Ware continued his studies and moved to Boston, where he lived from 1967 to 1973,
playing at Boston University, on college radio, local music festivals, and at
The Black Avant Garde Coffee House. During the early 1970s, he began practicing
with Rollins, who was then living in Brooklyn. "Quite a few times, we practiced
at his place in Brooklyn, or he would rent a loft and we would practice there,
or when I had a place on Canal Street in New York. He even invited me
down to play with my band opposite him for a set at the Vanguard in 1972. But
when we were practicing together, we would just play. No tunes or anything. He
never plays any things that had traditional melodies. Even if I did, he would
just blow. Those where definitely inspirational experiences. Sonny Rollins
what else can you say?"
From that point on, Ware began to move into the higher echelon of the period's
avant garde. He performed with Andrew Cyrille's group, with Cecil Taylor's big
band at Carnegie Hall in 1974, including US, European and Canadian tours in 1976
and 1977, with the bands of Milford Graves, Beaver Harris, with Cecil Taylor's
Unit as a regular member, and with his own groups at lofts like Studio RivBea
and Environ. Ware began to get something of a reputation as one of the most powerful
younger players, but most importantly, he was able to show off, particularly in
his own bands, the interest in creating his own version of the traditional elements
of the music. His experience playing with musicians in Boston such as Michael
Brecker and Bob Neloms had given him another angle from which to look at the music,
given the involvement each of them had with more traditional styles than the one
Ware was then working on. His lessons with Joe Viola and Charlie Mariano were
also helpful, as were his experiences in big bands conducted by Herb Pomeroy.
At this point, Ware has at his command a size-able talent and is intent on making
good use of it. "Over the last few years I have been working on slowing my
stuff down and writing music that will give me the variety I hear in my head.
I have always listened closely to the masters and have always wanted to let something
I like come in through my ears and get put together another way through the forces
of my own musical nervous system."
This recording is good proof of what Ware has under control at this point. One
of the most interesting things about it is that though he had only been playing
the stritch and the saxello all of six months when he took his trio into the studio,
he already had superbly broad and controlled tones on each of them, tones that
sat well next to that of his tenor saxophone. The moods of the songs are interesting
in that a number of them start out of tempo, either with a grieving songfulness
or a mood of majesty quite unusual for the school Ware is associated with; then
the music usually moves into a faster tempo, sometimes even a different meter.
The title track is a good introduction to his work, not only for Ware's improvising
but for the almost obesely pungent sound of bassist William Parker and the totally
sympathetic drums of Marc Edwards. Throughout, Ware shows that what he is after
is much more demanding of him and of his musicians than the random saxophone playing
projected by the limited owners of instruments who have so obscured the careers
of many of their betters.
But David S. Ware is not to be daunted. He knows just what he wants to get from
music and from his instruments. If the listener is patient and diligent, close
listenings to this music will reap a much bigger reward than you might expect.