Remembering David S. Ware

Nov 3, 2012

David S. Ware's saxophone artistry scorched many a Saturday night of adventuresome jazz on the Last Call over the last decade plus; he took the music to the very edge and with him his eager fans.
So understandably it is with sadness that I reflect on the passing of David S. Ware. He passed away in October at the age of 62.

One of the few musicians to totally embrace the tradition of "free jazz", Ware's music was fully in the tradition of John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and Pharaoh Sanders, the three saxophonists who most notably explored a spiritual urgency of emotion in the 1960s.  Ware's spiritually informed music helped to keep the flame alive for this most daring of jazz music, turning what could be a descent into
atonality into an encounter with profound feeling and on some occasions, the Divine Presence.

David S. Ware was very interested with mankind's place in the cosmos. As a lifelong practitioner of yoga and meditation, he wanted to touch the ineffable through his music, as he said in a conversation with his mentor Sonny Rollins,  " go so deep that you touch upon those universal forces".

David S. Ware was born in Plainfield, New Jersey on November 7, 1949.  Ware played alto, tenor and baritone saxophone from the age of 10. Attending Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1967-69, he formed a free jazz group in town called Apogee.  Ware studied privately with Sonny Rollins and was actively involved in the loft jazz scene in New York during  in the 1970's  He worked with pianist Cecil Taylor and drummer Andrew Cyrille, further building his reputation as artist worth following.  

During the following decade Ware began a 14 year profession as a New York City cab driver to make ends meet. Awareness of the saxophonist's profound artistry grew after 1988 when he formed his noted band with bassist William Parker, pianist Matthew Shipp and a series of dynamic drummers. This band become known for their fearless creativity and inventive vision.

Last Call first aired David S. Ware's music in the late 1990's, as the saxophonist began to emerge as a powerful voice internationally in the free jazz movement.  Ware's Go See the World and Surrendered were released on Columbia records as a result of promotion from fellow saxophonist Branford Marsalis. Since that time, Last Call has featured a number of Ware's compelling discs,  which presented the saxophonist in his always compelling, cosmic, blazing voice.

Ware was diagnosed with kidney disease from the late 1990's on and received a donated kidney from a late fan. This resulted in renewed health for the saxophonist and several more albums of brilliant artistry, ending with Planetary Unknown: Live at Jazzfestival Saalfelden 2011.  Unfortunately health issues related to the kidney transplant caught up with Ware and resulted in serious illness. Ware passed away on October 18, 2012. He is survived by his wife, Setsuko.

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