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David S. Ware: Surrendered

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David S. Ware’s Surrendered is one of those rare albums that is both disarming and overwhelmingly powerful. It’s disarming because tenor saxophonist Ware’s penchant for strong thematic hooks draws the listener into the hurricane-like turbulence of his music, rather than be pulverized by it. Whether it is a sanctified chant like “Theme of Ages” or the muscular “Glorified Calypso,” Ware’s themes are immediately inviting despite the ferocity with which they are often stated. This is Ware’s second Columbia album, but it is not a major label-induced backslide into accessibility, but it’s the rare instance where melody can be measured on the Richter Scale.

Ware’s inclusion of saxophonist Charles Lloyd’s “Sweet Georgia Bright” and drummer Beaver Harris’ “African Drums” places his current music in a pointed historical context. Ware originally recorded with the late Harris in a duet in ’77; here, he turns “African Drums” into a 16-minute tour de force, approximating the mid-’60s Coltrane Quartet’s atomizing of an early ’60s modal vamp. Stylistically, there is little that connects Lloyd with Ware, who gives the lyrically swinging “Sweet Georgia Bright” a new mass and strength; but Lloyd becomes an unavoidable figure as Ware continues to make inroads with a young rock-weaned audience. Together the two pieces form an arc that traces Ware’s career-from obscurity to celebrity-giving the album a poignant focus.

The album also is noteworthy for the Ware Quartet debut of Guillermo E. Brown. Brown is a more jazz-oriented drummer than his predecessor, Susie Ibarra. He has a smart sense of pyrotechnics and drama, whether he is highlighting the meditative glow of “Peace Celestial” with cymbal swells and bass and tom flourishes, or digging into an explosive post-Elvin Jones Latin groove on “Glorified Calypso.” Brown also knows how to fuel Ware’s combustive solos while complementing pianist Matthew Shipp’s and bassist William Parker’s idiosyncratic orchestral sensibilities.

Surrendered is one of Ware’s best albums to date, and one of the best albums released in the first half of 2000.