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David S. Ware String Ensemble – Threads

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David S. Ware felt it was time to focus on his abilities as a composer. As he puts it:

    “I didn’t want to make another quartet album with everybody blowing – there are enough records with me blowing my brains out”

Now personally, I love it when Ware blows his brains out. Just check out “Lexicon” from Go See The World. That…is some serious blowing. There’s some meat on it. While it doesn’t cross the line into, say, Peter Brotzman territory, it does build up a good bit of skronkology.

The selections on Threads are nothing like most previous Ware Quartet material. First of all, the instrumentation is not what you’d consider typical for jazz with the addition of viola whiz Mat Maneri and Daniel Bernard Roumain on violin. Quartet alums William Parker (bass) and Matthew Shipp are here, with Shipp on “Korg Triton Pro X” (parenthetically described as: “string pads and various piano settings”). Rounding out the group is Guillermo E. Brown on drums.

So, on to the important part…what’s this all add up to? Well, not Charlie Parker with Strings. Not Sketches of Spain. Not even Variants On A Theme Of Thelonious Monk. No, what Ware has put together is a collection of meditations on his own themes. New ones. Each track presents a slowly unfolding theme. As that musical base material is repeated the other instruments support it, react to it, and feed off of it. It may take a while for the whole story to reveal itself, but it’s worth the wait (and the ‘trip’ itself, is interesting). Oddly enough, this music reminds me of a collideascope. The theme defines the basic shape early on, and then the secondary instruments move in to change the colors.

Oh…those ‘themes’? I didn’t mean to suggest that Ware’s tenor is responsible for stating them. Not at all. On the opener “Ananda Rotation” it’s Parker’s bowed bass along with the strings. On “Sufic Passages” it’s Parker’s bass alone. “Weave I” begins with drums. And the closing “Weave II” is kicked off by Ware’s sax.

By scattering the timbral center of each tune, Ware has managed to create a suite of music that keeps the listener in suspense. The ear is waiting for a repetition of an earlier ‘situation’ and is ‘disappointed’. And that’s a good thing. For music fans with a lust for new sounds, this is food.

The title track is a pure string ensemble piece that’s the most classically-oriented selection. In many ways it reminds me of Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3. That’s a good thing too. The slowly building and evolving theme, while a model for the album as a whole, takes on a very elegiac nature when presented by the strings alone.

I want to say that this is now my favorite David S. Ware record…but playing favorites is tough when you’re dealing with such dissimilar material. Let’s just say that Ware’s need to focus on his compositional talents is a big success. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here.

(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)

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About Mark Saleski

  • http://www.unproductivity.com Tom Johnson

    I love the two Ware releases I have, and this sounds very intriguing. I wondered what this was going to be when i read about it somewhere. Definitely something to check out!

  • http://robbedbyafountainpen.blogspot.com BJ

    Interesting … I like it when he blows his brains out, but I can completely imagine that he has the talent and range to do something like this as well.

    Is the vibe here anything like the Maneri family records?

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    not really.

    i came close to using the description “third stream”…but that lots of negative connotations in peoples’ minds…kind of like “fusion”.

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