David S. Ware Quartet | Live in Vilnius | No Business Records

David S. Ware : tenor saxophone | Matthew Shipp : piano | William Parker : bass | Guillermo E. Brown : drums

Tracklist :Side A: 1. GANESH SOUND 17’25” | Side B: 2. THEME OF AGES 15’46” 3. MIKURO’S BLUES 6’15” | Side C: 4. THE STARGAZERS 22’15” | Side D: 5. THE STARGAZERS (continues) 4’45” 6. LITHUANIAN WHIRL 11’20” 7. SURRENDERED 7’18”

All compositions by David S. Ware, published by Gandharvasphere/Daswa (BMI), except “The Stargazers” by Sun Ra, Enterplanetary Koncepts (BMI). Recorded 24th March 2007 at Lithuanian Russian Drama Theatre by NGR. Mixed and mastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios. Design by Oskaras Anosovas. Eexecutive producer – Danas Mikailionis. Co-producer – Valerij Anosov. Limited Edition of 1000 records.

We are happy to introduce a new piece of music of the planetary value and significance – the last recording of the legendary David S. Ware Quartet. The performance took place in Vilnius in March 2007 and will be remembered among the most exciting musical acts ever. It’s our pleasure to deliver this music as a double recording to a wider audience worldwide and share the joy with you!

NoBusiness Records is proud and happy to announce that this performance has been released as a double limited edition LP.

David S. Ware Quartet | Live in Vilnius | no business records

listen to David S. Ware Quartet | Live in Vilnius | excerpt one

listen to David S. Ware Quartet | Live in Vilnius | excerpt two

David S. Ware’s new group

with guitarist Joe Morris, bassist William Parker and drummer Warren Smith made some very impressive music on last year’s Shakti. But that disc had a tentative quality, as though the bandmembers were feeling their way into a performing rapport, using easy grooves and simple melodies to bolster their largely horizontal improvisations. With his long-standing quartet, Ware was a different man – possessed of a leonine confidence and a staggering tone and power, he seemed to combine lungs the size of beer kegs with a Zen master’s discipline, never blowing an unnecessary or gratuitously attenuated note. This double vinyl release documents that group’s final concert, recorded on 24 March 2007 in Lithuania, and it’s almost overwhelming. The band is so unified that their improvisations feel like compositions – not because of predictability, but telepathy. The opening trio section of “Ganesh Sound” is a massive, throbbing roar, sent into the stratosphere when Ware enters. The intensity is maintained for 17-plus minutes, leading into a tree-uprooting, wall-collapsing version of “Theme of Ages.” A gently swinging “Mikuro’s Blues” seems almost like a respite, leading into a near half-hour version of Sun Ra’s “The Stargazers,” the performance’s centerpiece and highlight, on which pianist Matthew Shipp seems to be playing a celeste as William Parker offers some of the most subtle accompaniment of his career and drummer Guillermo Brown rattles hand-held percussion. At about the five-minute mark, the composition proper begins. Brown hits the toms like John Bonham, and with Elvin Jones dead, he’s got the heaviest kick-drum in jazz; Parker throbs like a tyrannosaurus heart; and Shipp dominates the keyboard’s low end with Gothic fervor. Ware doesn’t enter until nearly ten minutes into the piece, but when he does the intensity ratchets up again, to a level it’s hard to believe they can sustain…and yet they do. The improvised “Lithuanian Whirl” begins with three minutes of unaccompanied saxophone, followed by a four-minute Shipp solo, then another four minutes of Ware. The concluding version of “Surrendered” crashes like waves on the rocks, a suitably thunderous conclusion to this band’s epic musical journey. — Phil Freeman


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4 thoughts on “David S. Ware Quartet | Live in Vilnius | No Business Records

  1. One of my fave sax players of all times. Just read on organissimo that there will be a vinyl version of his current album ‘Onecept” on Rank and File (they haven’t mentioned it yet, but it should be released in late April).

  2. The year 2009 could be a rather big year for tenor saxophonist and improvising composer David S. Ware, and that’s saying a lot. After all, Ware has long been one of the most celebrated figures in free jazz, owing not only to his work with artists like pianist Cecil Taylor
    and percussionists Andrew Cyrille and Beaver Harris, but also his longstanding quartet, which was founded in 1989 with pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker and percussionist Marc Edwards. Through drummer and label changes, Ware’s quartet did imbue the avant-garde with an almost populist sensibility, a sonic imprint that was respected through numerous festival appearances and a short-lived contract with Columbia Records, where Ware’s playing and the cohesiveness of his group had impressed A&R man Branford Marsalis.

    Following 2007’s Renunciation (AUM Fidelity), Ware disbanded the unit. Health issues have prevented him from working until recently, and his new guitar-driven ensemble rethinks the paradigm set by previous instrumentation. But a conscious commitment to the interaction of piano, bass and drums is something still to be respected, and on the 20th anniversary year of the Ware quartet’s (DSWQ) formation, Lithuania’s No Business Records has released the group’s final concert. Live in Vilnius features the “classic group” extant from 1999-2007, with Guillermo E. Brown on drums, across six compositions and four vinyl sides. Surprisingly, it’s only the second live document of the group to appear, following Live in the World (2005), a three-disc set on Thirsty Ear.

    It’s not difficult to hear, from the introductory bars of “Ganesh Sound,” which takes up the first side, what makes the quartet’s music accessible. Though by no means traditional, a combination of ecstasy, weight and repetition conspire towards a dynamic veneration. A droning rubato segment for piano, bowed bass and rattling bells appears massive and impregnable at the outset, something akin to the alaps favored in mid-period John Coltrane, but with a decidedly sinister edge. Ware enters with a flinty church-like phrase, more Sonny Rollins than Albert Ayler, breathy and teasing as Shipp, Parker and Brown settle into a lopsided, free-time gospel push underneath. There is an interesting tension that exists between Ware’s hard-bitten reed and the romantic and slightly minimalist chord voicings Shipp utilizes. Triple-stopped masses of steel strings and Brown’s tom-heavy attack knit a tight web underneath the pair, but the poles remain in a constant play of readjustment between consonance and dissonance, clusters and light resolution. Even as the tenor improvisation approaches pure evisceration, there’s a rounding of the edges, and once the rhythm section have their say, it’s toward delicate bricks of crystalline repetition. A dusting of bamboo sticks and worrying upper-register arco skirt the tune before its restive close.

    A flitting a capella tenor section opens the florid anthem “Theme of Ages,” ringing minor chords a launching pad for condensed screams. It’s the sort of approach to the saxophone that, prior to the 1965 Coltrane quartet, might have seemed an improbable match for any pianist. Pianists like McCoy Tyner, Bobby Few and Dave Burrell, however, formed bedrocks from the superimposition of scales, allowing the reed player a vast amount of chordally valid approaches. Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Frank Wright are among the saxophonists whose bands made great use of this approach, and it has found traction in the Shipp-Ware juggernaut, allowing the unabashedly “out” to feel structured and “in.” The funky “Mikuro’s Blues” closes the second side, a theme that also appears on Renunciation, and which is very much out of the rock-solid school of cluster-anthems employed by pianist Mal Waldron’s 1970s trios.

    The centerpiece of Live in Vilnius is a 26-minute exploration of Sun Ra’s “Theme of the Stargazers,” which takes up one and one-third sides of the set. Though as a leader and writer, standards and covers don’t frequently make their way into the Ware songbook, special compositions like Rollins’s “Freedom Suite” have occupied a notable spot. “Stargazers” finds Shipp rustling in the piano’s guts, a black-coated sun harp outlined with Parker’s pirouetting bow. The pianist approximates Ra’s clunky progression in sketch only at first, the trio soon assembling a beautifully ringing groove that, while the original’s whimsy is absent, nevertheless floats and sashays around Parker’s firm-but-pliant anchor. Ware’s hangs back for the first several minutes; rather than state the theme his solo quickly builds into panned, earth-rattling long tones, a throaty and deep foghorn that cuts through everything around it. As a device, it seems purely for air-clearing effect; he’s more interesting as he bounces, pops and winds around his compatriots, for Ware is a truly acrobatic player. A clipped piano statement and interlude for pizzicato bass and toms follow, Ware re-entering with cottony digs and squirrely circular runs over skating rhythmic push-pull.

    As with much of the DSWQ catalog, it’s obvious that the “Q” stands for something cooperative. In an age where all-star lineups, unique projects and sideman gigs are extraordinarily common, it’s refreshing (if not downright jaw-dropping) to see a band that lasted nearly twenty years playing this music. Live in Vilnius is a fitting document to close out their run, and while not any more or less a jewel than the other 17 releases, it’s an excellent final chapter. As a reminder of what came before, it will also be an interesting companion to Ware’s future projects.

  3. I’m sure you’ve experienced music that blows your socks off when you first hear it, and then you listen to it again and again, and it gets better all the time. This double vinyl album is like that.

    David S Ware’s compositions and playing have this unique magic that is only comparable to John Coltrane : expansive, expansive, expansive, like there’s no gravity anymore holding you down from flying across the skies, the oceans, the mountains. It is powerful and all-encompassing, full of passion, full of drama, full of wild joy, full of unlimited and unrestrained love, like a prayer to the universe. Ware’s tenor is accompanied by Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass and Guillermo E. Brown on drums, the kind of crew that will help you fly to outer space, and they do… they do so brilliantly.

    The first track, “Ganesh Sound”, comes for his recent album “Renunciation”, but here it starts with a few minutes of dark intro by the band, before Ware enters and the tune’s wonderful floating melody and rhythm grabs you by the heart and drags you in for the next 17 minutes of pure musical joy, hypnotic, mesmerizing, stunning, with Ware’s powerful tenor reaching every corner of the universe. The second side starts with “Theme Of Ages”, of his “Surrendered” CD, again strong from beginning to end, with a strong drum solo in the middle, and with Ware wailing his heart out. It is followed by “Mikuro’s Blues”, a mid-tempo piece that figures on several of his albums (Renunciation, Live In The World, Go See The World), with Parker in a leading role, driving on the halting rhythm in perfect interplay with Shipp’s hammering piano chords. The C side is again one track, Sun Ra’s “The Stargazers”, a composition that the band has also played before. It starts very open-ended, with Shipp’s avant-garde lyricism on piano supported by Parker’s arco and pizzi playing, while Brown accentuates with small percussion, creating the kind of mystique that sets the scene, and when the rhythm picks up, Parker’s bass vamp pulling along Brown, all percussive fluidity, and Shipp playing those broadly spaced rhythmic chords, and then after some 7 minutes Ware enters, lifting the musical heights even higher, giving himself fully, wailing, howling, but focused, disciplined, powerfully, while his rhythm section drives on, relentlessly, hypnotically, then we get the mirror effect, and Ware takes a step back, leaving his band, and especially Parker some space, who keeps the piece’s momentum going till the very last note, yet the track continues on the D side of the LP, strangely enough, but that’s a minor default, because Shipp comes pounding in again, light-footed and strong, leading to the climax for unaccompanied sax. “Lithuanian Whirl” is an improvised piece, starting with solo sax, in which Ware demonstrates his fabulous tonal skills, then Shipp takes over the lead, for some adventurous, but always lyrical, soloing. The album ends majestically with “Surrendered”, grand, expansive again, propulsed forward into the skies by Parker’s soulful bass, Brown’s fluent playing, Shipp’s rhythmic lyricism, and flying, soaring, above it all, high in the sky, David S. Ware.

    Needless to say that I’m a fan of David S. Ware, and of his band-mates, but this is an absolutely stellar performance, with an absolutely excellent sound quality too. This album is without a doubt a strong contender for the end-of-the-year rankings and listings. At least it has everything this guy expects from music : it is beautiful, adventurous, lyrical and free, soulful and emotional, spiritual and with instrumental skills that are hard to equal

    … at least not since Coltrane …

    Last month, David S. Ware was operated on, receiving the long-awaited kidney transplant. Apparently everything went well and he is now recovering. We wish him and his family all the best. And may he come back on stage quite soon.

  4. With David S. Ware on the DL for a little while while he recovers from successful kidney transplant surgery, this excellent live album serves as a reminder of what a protean force he is in the world of jazz. This album was recorded during his final tour with the quartet that he had led for the past decade, with Ware on tenor saxophone, Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass and Guillermo E. Brown on drums.

    “Ganesh Sound” opens the album with a darkly spiritual theme that builds to the unflagging intensity that this band was famous for. Never shrieking or pounding for the sake of making a racket, the band uses volume and energy as a tool to present its focused and deeply considered music. “Theme of the Ages” has an exploratory feel that leads to a drum solo from Brown that is nimble and subtle. Ware’s return is raw and beautiful, pushing the music to new and majestic heights. “Mikuro’s Blues” features a beautiful bass solo from William Parker, strong and elastic, it lays the foundation for the band when they enter and Ware leads the group on a deeply emotional free-bop performance.

    “The Stargazers” is the centerpiece of the set, with an epic performance. There is a ten minute introduction from the trio with Ware laying out. Building from a quiet start, the music builds upon itself as Shipp moves to the low end of the keyboard sending out waves of music like a sonar operator plumbing the depths of the sea. When Ware finally enters at the ten minute mark, it is with a rush of energy that is truly galvanizing. His wrenching saxophone sound is awesome in its vitality. This was a wonderful album, full of deeply emotional playing from all involved.

    This group was much loved during their tenure and it is easy to see why. Hopefully David S. Ware will recover fully and soon from his recent surgery so he can continue to spread his message of peace and understanding through music like he did in this wonderful concert.

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