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David S. Ware - Saturnian (Solo Saxophones, Volume 1)

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Artist: David S. Ware

Album: Saturnian (Solo Saxophones, Volume 1)

Label: AUM Fidelity

Review date: Mar. 8, 2010

David S. Ware is playing an incredibly small show at a special undisclosed location in New York on March 13. Click here for the scoop.

Saxophonist David S. Ware is no stranger to solo performance, even if his discography suggests otherwise. Until now, his recordings in that format consisted of a single European concert date on the Italian Splasc(h) imprint. Saturnian increases that tally with three concentrated saxophone investigations, and there’s more performances in the pipeline (hence the Volume 1). The small miracle of Ware’s recent kidney transplant and subsequent auspicious return to activity enhances the import of the proceedings and his improvisational skills sound undiminished by the interim spent away.

Ware is one of the select free jazz improvisers to have elicited encomiums from revered players like Sonny Rollins and Michael Brecker. He spent much of his three decade-plus career fronting various ensembles, most notably a quartet in the company of pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker and a number of revolving drummers. Tenor took top priority over the past two decades, but this set also finds him revisiting two other reeds in his arsenal as vehicles for extemporaneous expression. The respectful audience in attendance reserves its collective enthusiasm until the conclusion of each piece. Ware uses the latitude of the setting to its fullest, aligning his imagination with the tonal character of each horn and keeping meandering detours to a minimum.

Volume 1 comprises three pieces that spool out to just under 40 minutes. “Methone” and “Pallene” find him communicating on two reeds made famous by Rashaan Roland Kirk, the saxello and stritch, respectively. Each was last heard on record on a pair of 1990 albums for Silkheart, and based on the rigorous set of paces Ware engineers for them here, were sorely missed. The first piece focuses on sharply sketched scalar variances, the second more concerned with rhythmic juxtapositions of staccato and legato phrases dipped in burnished vibrato. Faithful tenor arrives on the final “Anthe,” and it’s there that Ware’s command is most complete. He nimbly skates the instrument’s false altissimo range without breaking stride.

The album’s title nods directly at one of the saxophonist’s chief inspirations, Sun Ra, though the conventional adjectival meaning of the word applies just as well. These are happy, prosperous days for Ware and that renewed sense of hope and purpose plays out beautifully in the music.

By Derek Taylor

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