More than two hours of molten, visceral, spontaneous improvisation from David S. Ware is contained on Live in New York, 2010, the third posthumous volume of previously unreleased material from AUM Fidelity since the saxophonist’s passing in 2012. While Ware is most widely known and appreciated for his tenor workouts in a quartet setting, this recording situates him in a piano-less trio, where he mostly performs on his vintage 1926 Buescher straight alto, or stritch. It encompasses his entire, unedited performance alongside bassist William Parker and drummer Warren Smith, captured over two sets at the Blue Note on Oct. 4, 2010. The trio was celebrating the previous month’s release of Onecept, which had been recorded in December 2009, just seven months after Ware’s kidney transplant.
Ware sounds more vigorous at the Blue Note than he did on Onecept, both in a shaggy, “cut loose” sense and in the depth of his probing sonority. While his stritch playing can be garrulous at times, more often it is a glorious flow of torrid phrases denoted by incredibly fast fingering. (Ware is less reliant on the squealing upper register than the most prominent stritch player in jazz history, Rahsaan Roland Kirk.) Meanwhile, his cohorts present a compelling contrast. Parker, the legendary avant-garde bassist who was Ware’s most constant musical companion, shares the saxophonist’s affinity for bold statements, and for the emotional, blues-oriented dynamic of bruising and being bruised. Smith is more of a responder, synthesizer and clarifier, and has an acute enough sense of both timing and momentum to channel the maelstrom without getting overwhelmed.
David S. Ware deserves the enhanced legacy that AUM Fidelity founder Steven Joerg, who wrote the liner notes, is steadily providing. Although the sheer power and gusto of his playing will always predominate—he can shred with the best of them—there is a wealth of other facets to his arsenal. At various times he shares the impish impulsivity of Sonny Rollins, the acerbic declamations of Archie Shepp, the knotty but logical complexity of Sam Rivers and the salty, nasal tonality of Coleman Hawkins. And with his stritch in tow, Ware adds some sinuous, overtly Eastern stylings to Live in New York, 2010. For all the pain he endured from his failed kidney and the autoimmune challenges following the transplant, until the end Ware’s playing bore an unmistakable faith in the healing power of music.