Seven years after his death, fire-and-brimstone tenor saxophonist David S. Ware is still giving us new music. Théâtre Garonne, 2008 presents his New Quartet (with guitarist Joe Morris, bassist William Parker, and drummer Warren Smith) in concert in France two weeks after the group recorded the album Shakti. Given the compressed time frame, there’s a lot of overlap here—all of the tracks appear in some form on Shakti—but Théâtre Garonne, 2008 is a very different experience. There’s heightened intensity here, no doubt owing to the way the musicians fed off the crowd. The highs are higher, the spaces more spacious.
This is most evident on “Crossing Samsara,” a simple, folkish tune built on a series of repeated notes that arpeggiate an A-flat minor chord. Its modest structure allows the musicians to improvise wildly without worrying about where they’d end up (as if that ever bothered Ware). On the Shakti version of “Crossing Samsara,” this went on for nine minutes or so. On Théâtre Garonne, 2008 the quartet stretches the composition into a 26-minute tour de force, with Ware soloing unaccompanied—and with abandon—for more than four minutes. This band was assembled not long after pianist Matthew Shipp’s long tenure with Ware ended, so it’s interesting to note how Morris’ presence changes it. He transitions from unadorned chords to fluid, bluesy lines to hypersonic picking. On “Durga,” he puts his technical wizardry on display; on “Reflection,” he turns introspective. It’s on that latter tune that Ware shows off his most mysterious talent: sounding forlorn while putting on a fireworks show, building and building a story through his horn, putting you in awe, making you weep.