David S. Ware says in the liner notes to Threads that he's released "enough records with me blowing my brains out," so the tenor saxophonist headed down a different path. Most notably, he plays on only half of the album's six tracks, totaling just 14 of the album's 44 minutes. But when Ware the saxophonist isn't front-and-center, leveling walls with his gargantuan tone, he's replaced by the presence of Ware the composer-to the extent that some of his performers evoke his playing on string instruments.
Classical violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain and adventurous violist Mat Maneri, who both get plenty of room in the spotlight, join Ware's usual quartet: bassist William Parker, drummer Guillermo E. Brown and keyboardist Matthew Shipp. Instead of piano, Shipp plays the Korg Triton ProX synthesizer, an instrument he brought to Ware's 2001 CD Corridors & Parallels. This time, it serves a more atmospheric purpose, widening the sound and blending with the nonsynthetic strings.
When Ware plays, he avoids his trademark honks and altissimo shrieks in favor of more contemplative lines. On the album opener "Ananda Rotation"-cowritten with Shipp-his lines sound like spiritual moans, with the other five musicians creating a limber, flowing piece. Shipp and Ware duet on the brief but exciting "Weave I" and "Weave II." On "Sufic Passages" the strings whine and probe over the rhythm section's steady riff, with Parker, Maneri and Roumain playing a slow, simple melody that's part chamber music and part jazz-dirge on the title track. One almost expects Ware to leap in and blow off the lid, but he doesn't need to.
It's hard not to think of Ware as a guest star on Threads, at least on first listen. However the music's power ends up taking over, making the album likely to become one of the most significant offerings in the saxophonist's career.