David S. Ware Returns

David S. Ware — Saturnian (AUM Fidelity, 2010)

Like closure and a new beginning all in one: This is the concert that Ware performed on Oct. 15, 2009, his first show after a life-saving kidney transplant.

The recording, roughly 39 minutes, consists of three pieces, each played on a different type of saxophone.

Track 1: The saxello, fleet and darting. It lacks the wonderfully blusterous punch of the tenor sax but it’s still a delight, opening the concert with an energetic vibe like the sound of good health and grateful  joy. I guess there’s no reason to assume Ware’s sax playing would have suffered — it’s not like he had arthritis or asthma — but it’s still nice to hear, quickly, that he’s in top-notch form. He goes nuts with a high swirling riff near the end — it’s a repetitious passage but inserted at the right point to make what’s effectively a climactic moment followed by a long conclusion.

Track 2: Stritch, a.k.a. Beuscher straight alto.  Lower register, still blurry fast in its phrasing. But this time, Ware settles into a generally calmer demeanor, more conversational, or maybe more like a monologue, with fewer of the quick-flip runs of tough-to-discern harmony. Wraps up nicely.

Track 3: Finally, that tenor sound!  Rich and throaty, starting with a few introductory notes, a tap on the shoulder, before touching on deeper sounds and fast-running phrases. There’s a raspy soulfulness to the quick flurries of notes, with low barks to punctuate phrases. It ends in an ecstatic upper-range squeal and a brief, spoken thank you from Ware.

It’s interesting to hear Ware against a blank backdrop; he seems to use the space differently than he does with his quartet, which is dominated by that grand, reverent, towering sound (as on this video clip from the Sant’Anna Arresi Jazz Festival 2004).  And the concert is a nice snippet of history.

So good to hear Ware back in action and back to health.  Now, if I can only manage to see him play live someday.

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