David S. Ware | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

David S. Ware 

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Like his childhood mentor Sonny Rollins, saxophonist David S. Ware exploits his gargantuan tone to full effect. Having cut his teeth in New York's potent 70s loft jazz scene, Ware worked with pianist Cecil Taylor (power-blowing in a particularly blustery mid-70s version of Taylor's Unit) and later locked horns with trumpeter Ted Daniel in drummer Andrew Cyrille's Maono, a primo inside-out postbop combo. But for much of the 80s the metaphysically inclined Ware retreated from the jazz scene, reevaluating and refining his approach to the music with a Zen-like discipline. His reemergence in the late 80s found him significantly more powerful and more thoughtful. Ware's aggressive compositions and subsequent improvisations wring every possibility from often brief melodic motifs. A pair of 90s recordings for the Japanese DIW label by his excellent working quartet--Ware, pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker, and drummer Whit Dickey--presents him at the peak of his game. On both originals and standards--a ballad like "Angel Eyes" or Rollins's brisk, simple "East Broadway Run Down"--Ware leaps on a melodic line and rips it apart from every possible angle, only to reassemble it in the end. His restless, probing spirit, like that of Miles Davis, proves that the number of notes one plays is meaningless; it's how you play them. Add to this a technical facility that includes spellbinding circular breathing, screaming split tones, and caustic harmonics, and you're in for a remarkably moving, mind-altering performance. In this gig, which opens the resurrected Underground Fest, he's billed as the David S. Ware Special Project, meaning he'll unfortunately be without his telepathic cohorts, but the very able local rhythm section of drummer Kahil El'Zabar, bassist Malachi Favors, and pianist Jodie Christian will surely get the job done. His long overdue Chicago debut is not to be missed. As a bonus, the presence of Ware should ignite the spirits of saxophonists Ed Wilkerson and Mwata Bowden of 8 Bold Souls, who will also perform. Friday, 10:30 PM, Belmont Hotel, 3170 N. Sheridan; 642-9366 or 409-2606.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Cheung Ching Ming.

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