In Praise of David S. Ware: Remembering the Saxophone Pioneer


With the passing of avant-garde visionary behemoth David S. Ware this past October at 62 years too young, a monumental crater was forever ingrained in the jazz lexicon. Ware, in supreme alliance with fellow trailblazers like pianist colossus Matthew Shipp and bassist/composer extraordinaire William Parker, transported downtown New York City jazz and experimentalism into a singularly adventurous “out” stratosphere of spiritual otherworldliness.

The foreboding Ware matched his physical massiveness with an equally huge sound. The New Jersey native–a Sonny Rollins disciple and Cecil Taylor collaborator–was a paint-peeling fire-breather, a prophetic soul-spewing slayer and improvisational warrior. Through the staggering host of his Quartet and solo records released by Steven Joerg’s titan AUM Fidelity label, the jazz royalty trifecta of Ware/Shipp/Parker fused the avant with DIY punk ethos, which was ultimately championed by the likes of freedom music enthusiasts like Thurston Moore.

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From 7:30-9:30 this evening, a remembrance and celebration of Ware’s life and musical legacy will commence at Saint Peter’s Church (619 Lexington Ave. at 54th St.. It will include performances by his peers including Cooper-Moore, Parker, Shipp, Muhammad Ali, Darius Jones, Joe Morris, Warren Smith, Andrew Cyrille, Daniel Carter and Guillermo E. Brown. Furthermore, there will be remembrances, a slideshow, video footage and a short film.

Here, we pay tribute to Ware with some of his landmark recordings and recollections from Shipp and Joerg taken from interviews conducted in 2011 and 2012.

Matthew Shipp: “I was around at the beginning of AUM. I had met (Steven) Joerg when he was at Homestead Records and talked him into signing Ware.

Steven Joerg:“Matt had a duet record with William (Parker) on a Texas punk-rock label which had a distro deal with Dutch East. He was in the office on a regular basis, dropping off presses and saying ‘Hey’ to the Dutch East salespeople–hustling, basically. So I got to know Matt that way. He knew I put out the (William) Hooker record (Radiation). One day, Matt came in and gave me a David S. Ware Quartet record, Third Ear Recitation. I went home, listened to it, and was completely bowled over.”

Steven Joerg:“I saw them two weeks later and when first meeting David, I was nervous because he’s an imposing individual, artistically and being a big dude. Seeing him play live, I was blown away; it was one of the greatest musical experiences I’ve had. The idea of signing the Ware Quartet was a bit of a stretch, but I convinced them. The first record we did–Cryptology–ended up being the lead review in Rolling Stone.”

David S Ware Sant’Anna Arresi Jazz Festival 2004 from Musique en Jeu on Vimeo.

Matthew Shipp:“What made [the David S. Ware Quartet’s 2002 album] Freedom Suite so exciting was that it was a Sonny Rollins piece which, when Rollins recorded it, had no piano. So I had freedom to invent a role for myself on this CD, and also because of Ware’s close friendship with Rollins. We had his (Rollins) blessing, and in fact, I am told he loved what we did with it and when he was put in the Jazz Hall of Fame at Jazz at Lincoln Center, he requested that the Ware Quartet play a movement from Freedom Suite–which we did.”

Steven Joerg (in 10/18/12 eulogy written upon Ware’s passing): “‘A giant’ doesn’t even begin to describe this man. David had a whole lot more to teach us. I know I had a whole lot more to learn from him, but am elementally and eternally grateful for all that he offered and revealed in his time here on this earth.”

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