By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
The proof is in these three discs, drawn from a 1998 Swiss concert and two 2003 Italian dates. Bassist William Parker and pianist Matthew Shipp, who've ranged widely to great acclaim as leaders, do their most complete work with Ware. Never reliant on standard basslines or chord movement, the two weave webs shaped to Ware's succinct melodies and ever shifting flow. That plays to Ware's strength. Like Cecil Taylor, he isn't a truly free player: He teases possibilities from distinct statements, each stamped by a different drummer. Hamid Drake's snare rolls and cymbal crashes are finely attuned to the individual improvisations. Guillermo E. Brown's aggressive attack lends spark. Susie Ibarra's painterly polyrhythms, devoid of cliché, reach for the sublime.
Ware's studio take on Marvin Hamlisch's "The Way We Were" (1998's Go See the World) began as a quartet deconstruction. Here, Ware enters alone, wrestles a phrase or two, buzzes through overtones, and veers into "My One and Only Love" and "Misty," among other tunes, until the quartet joins him for a recognizable read. At the bridge, the song shatters into beautiful shards, for later reassembly. Disc three is devoted to Rollins's 1958 Freedom Suite, its themes dissolved into Ware's improvisations even more fluidly than on his 2003 recording.
Mostly, Ware refines his own compositions. "Sentient Compassion" (from 1993's Third Ear Recitation) expands into a tender ballad, with Parker's bass thumping like a Moroccan sintir and Shipp's broken chords evoking a thumb piano as Ware's high end softly flutters. And Ware strips "Aquarian Sound" (1992's Flight of I) to its core, staked to Parker's sturdy five-note theme and Shipp's chiming clusters. A mountain of musicworth the climb for its glimpses of Ware's unencumbered bliss.