David S. Ware/Cooper-More/William Parker/Muhmmad Ali: Planetary Unknown

These four musicians have all known each other for years, but never performed as a unit until they ventured into the studio last November. Saxophonist David S. Ware has played with bassist William Parker in the former’s quartet for nearly two decades, while multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore, here on piano, played in one of Parker’s bands and is old friends with Ware. Muhammad Ali, brother of the late Rashied and drummer on Albert Ayler’s final studio albums, is new to the fold but he responds empathetically in this completely improvised session.

Although no one actually leads the session, Ware’s personality-or perhaps his strong tone-seems to direct much of the proceedings. Things begin with assurance on the 22-minute “Passage Wudang.” It’s a firestorm of sounds, each player interacting closely with his comrades. Ware stacks crescendo on top of crescendo but never runs out of ideas, but the real highlight arrives in the subdued final minutes, where the band moves together slowly. The Ware/Ali duet “Duality Is One” pays homage to the Interstellar Space recordings by the drummer’s brother and John Coltrane. While the melodic attack is different, a similar focus remains.

When Ware switches out his tenor sax for sopranino, the synergy wavers a bit and things begin to ramble in the longer tracks. Cooper-Moore seems lost during the ballad “Divination,” dropping out when a duo with Ware doesn’t catch and later trying to establish a two-chord riff, which the saxophonist seems to ignore. Ware has a delightfully odd tone on the stritch (a customized straight alto) in “Ancestry Supramental,” but the endless stream of traded fours with Ali takes the group into a type of jazz showboating they typically avoid.