Courtesy of David S. Ware


(September 19, 2002)

Often referred to as the "king of free jazz," David S. Ware has become a cult hero of sorts for all the Albert Ayler/John Coltrane circa Meditations fiends that have been foaming at the mouth for a standard bearer (they forget a living Peter Brotzmann). Ironically, the man they've chosen to crown does not play free or avant-garde. In fact, Ware is pretty tame in comparison to Ken Vandermark, Mats Gustafsson, Charles Gayle, or Joe Maneri. But it is Ware that has to bear the burden and it shouldn't be his to bear. I have long been a devotee of Ware and the one thing I can say for certain is he hasn't been to Los Angeles since Reagan was in office. Ware sat down with the Roadshow to talk about his latest release, Freedom Suite, the tenor's take on the Sonny Rollins opus, unedited and in his own words.

FRED JUNG: My glee that you had received major label attention via your contract with Columbia was short lived.

DAVID S. WARE: Well, it didn't really affect me too much, Fred, because we knew it (the demise) was coming and either it was going to get a lot better or it was going to do what it did. Branford (Branford Marsalis) left and almost everybody else we were working with up there left. I came in on a new administration, so we went out on a new administration and when you do things like put people in there who don't know anything about jazz and it's supposed to be a jazz department and you have people from other genres of music running it, you can expect that. You can expect that they don't know what the hell is going on with the music and you can expect not to be there. So we could see it all coming when Branford left. Like I said, other people left and it just wasn't any surprise.

FJ: College radio has been behind the music and the quartet has gained a heavy underground following and no recognition?

DAVID S. WARE: No, no. It all comes down to individuals, Fred. If they don't, first of all, if they don't know what jazz is all about and they came to hear the band live and they couldn't deal with it, so it was just a matter of weeks before we got the notice. It is all individuals, Fred. Either you know or you don't know. If you don't know the history of a particular band, you're not into what they're doing and you don't know what they've done, so why should you? You're going to get paid whether you do it or not, so you have no motivation to really do your job correctly. You've been put in a certain slot and you know the higher ups say that the George Washingtons are not adding up and so you start cutting. That is all you know how to do. You start cutting and you start bring in people and you don't know what the hell you're doing really. As far as I'm concerned, it is just a matter of total ignorance. In fact, you've got nobody working with you that is telling you that they are such and such and they've done such and such and if you don't know these things and you've got no one to tell you then what are you working on? You are just working from what you know from a whole other kind of perspective and you've got nobody to tell you nothing. You are working on a platform of ignorance. There's nowhere to go. There's nowhere to go.

FJ: How long was your stint with Cecil Taylor?

DAVID S. WARE: I played with Cecil for eighteen months, a year and a half. Cecil is a top-notch composer, which I didn't fully appreciate at the time that I was with the band, which I have certainly learned since. It is really the compositional aspect that I was able to take, the compositional aspect of his work years later because at the time I was with him, I was young and I felt that I had something to prove with all this and I'm trying to do that and I'm not paying close enough attention to his compositions and how they set up and how I could really work on the inside of them, instead I worked on the top of the composition. I didn't work on the inside. Since then, since all those years ago, I've learned about all of that and I've learned to appreciate it as well, writing things for my own musicians and wanting them to deal with it and not just play over the top of it and not just keep playing the same old shit over and over. You can really work with the material that's been given, no matter how simple it might be sometimes. That's really what I learned from the Cecil Taylor experience.

FJ: Let's touch on your new release on AUM Fidelity, Freedom Suite.

DAVID S. WARE: Well, it was a request of a certain festival for us to do that, perform that. They wanted us to perform that. So it was working so well that we just kept playing in and it just kept opening up and we decided that we should probably record it. That's how it came about. There's just a lot of places in there that can be stretched out and opened up and so that's what we tried to do. I basically used his melody , but I just kind of added to it or rearranged it a little bit on the melody. That was all it took for us. We could see that it was working. We performed it quite a lot, quite a few times before we had to play it at the festival that requested it and so it really started to open up. I didn't really choose it. They chose it for me to play. So that is how it happened. That was the progression of it.

FJ: Originally Rollins recorded it in trio form, you with your quartet, what did the addition of Mat Shipp bring to the table?

DAVID S. WARE: Well, you have the whole dimension of the piano, Fred, which is lends itself to the expanse of the music. Not that you can't do it with a trio, but that's what the band is, we just dealt with it. That's just the way I think. I think with a piano when I am thinking about a piece of music, I'm thinking with a piano in some kind of way.

FJ: You've kept the current version of the quartet (Shipp, William Parker, Guillermo Brown) for a while.

DAVID S. WARE: This has been about three and a half years since she (Susie Ibarra) left. Those two players (Shipp and Parker) are there because of their connectiveness to what it is that we're doing in general and their commitment to this situation, this particular situation and that's why those two players are there, from their commitment and their willingness to always try, it has a lot to do with scheduling too. They are able to do their own thing, with their own bands, with other bands, whatever and they still make it a point to always do what it is we do with the quartet. That's not so easy to find, that kind of commitment, so when you have it, you try to keep it.

FJ: Whose idea was it to have Shipp play synth on Corridors & Parallels (AUM Fidelity)?

DAVID S. WARE: It was mine. It was mine. I just wanted to try a different sound. We're still not finished with it. We'll get back to that at some point. I just wanted to play with a new sound and see what we could come up with.

FJ: I read the rags and you garner a good many references to Ayler and late Trane.

DAVID S. WARE: (Sighs) Well, you know, Fred, I do things quite differently from both of those players, Fred. I was certainly influenced by both of them. I'm influenced by a whole lot of different people if people pay attention, which they don't really pay that close attention to, but I think at this point, Albert Ayler is really inappropriate. That is really inappropriate at this point. They don't, they're not listening. They're not listening, Fred. They are just not listening. Maybe they listened to a record one time and they think they know it all. But, no that is not happening. As far as the inside of the music, the sound, maybe the sound is one thing and maybe that it all that you hear is the sound, but everything else is quite different. Maybe they mean the sound. If you want to ask me, I think I have come into my own. I think I sound original enough to own that. I have come into my own. Each record is different. There is no one record where you can say that this is my whole way of operating right here or whatever. The way I deal with melody and the way I deal with swing, I think I've come into my own. I think that is what they ought to, stop being so damn lazy and try to get into a little bit more. Get into the inner workings of the music if they feel that they know the music or they're supposed to know what's going on. Get into the inner workings of what I do with a melody, what I do with motifs and so forth and so on.

FJ: Granted Shipp and Parker have wandered into some mainstream spotlight of late, but prior to their recent recognition, they were knocked for not being on the same level, paralleling Rollins and his bands through the years.

DAVID S. WARE: Well, I haven't read all the reviews, but out of all the hundreds of reviews that I have read, I haven't read that one. That's a new one to me. I always thought they pretty much recognized the talent of the entire band and how well we do work together because we are all basically working on the same level here. Nobody is out beyond ten thousand miles apart from anybody.

FJ: Is Europe a friendly ground?

DAVID S. WARE: There's more places in Europe, for us it is anyway. Everything that we do everywhere is very well received. We haven't been anywhere that it is poorly received. Sometimes the situation around where we're playing at is not what it should be, whatever, but other than that, we are pretty well received wherever we go, whether it is East Coast or West Coast.

FJ: West Coast, the left has been weathering a Ware drought.

DAVID S. WARE: Well, we almost got there last year, but it was a simple matter of business. If you can't get the guarantee that you're looking for, we may pass it up because we're not teenagers no more. We need to make a certain amount. We need to take home a certain amount because we've all got families and homes like everybody else, so we can't run around playing for half of what it should be or whatever. Like I said, we were almost there last year and it was because of the guarantee that we didn't do it. We went to San Francisco. We went to Yoshi's. We went to three or four places out there.

FJ: And the future?

DAVID S. WARE: We go back to Europe at the end of October and probably nothing after that until March. We'll probably be back to Europe in March. That's the way it looks right now. I am looking forward to getting feedback on this one.

FJ: Both William and Guillermo have recorded for Shipp's Thirsty Ear series, how come you haven't gone into the studio?

DAVID S. WARE: There maybe some things in the future. I don't want to talk about it too much. It may be some things coming in the future.

Fred Jung is the Editor-In-Chief
and is in heaven knowing the Raiders are in first place with the Chargers? Comments? Email Him