Courtesy of David S. Ware

Columbia Records


Have you heard Third Ear Recitation? How about Godspelized? Flight of I? If not, you can not possibly understand the size of David S. Ware's improvising hand. It is large. But since I heard through a little birdie that Columbia is "sizing down" it's jazz department (the tragedy), I am a bit concerned with what will happen to Ware, one of the monsters on the tenor. His latest album is as "in the pocket" as I have ever heard Ware and it is a nice change of pace. It is slated to be released in May and I would be all over it if I were you. Welcome David S. Ware, as always, unedited and in his own words.

FRED JUNG: Let's start from the beginning.

DAVID S. WARE: Well, I got started in, I took up the saxophone in 1959 in my school system here. I was involved in all the school activities in fifth grade, all the way through twelfth grade, dance band, marching band, orchestra, concert band. I took private lessons as a pre-teen and a teenager.

FJ: What were your listening tastes like then?

DAVID S. WARE: I was listening to Cannonball Adderley, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Archie Shepp, and all of those people. I would catch whoever I could on late night jazz radio. I would listen to Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.

FJ: At what stage in your development did you make the shift from being a student of the music to one who is shaping the course of the music?

DAVID S. WARE: I guess that would have been in Boston. I started playing around in Boston when I was going to school up there with other students who had different, various bands and things.

FJ: Where were you attending school?

DAVID S. WARE: I was going to school in Boston. I don't really want to mention the institution because I don't really appreciate what happened there.

FJ: What happened there?

DAVID S. WARE: I was going to music school in Boston. I promised myself that whatever I would accomplish in music, I would never give them any credit because they don't really deserve it and so I am letting you know, but it is common knowledge where I went. Anyway, I was going to school up there and I started playing around.

FJ: You must have been jaded by the whole experience. It had to have been a struggle.

DAVID S. WARE: Well, it was a struggle. You have to remember, Fred, that I was seventeen years old and this is the late sixties and there is a whole lot of protests and revolution around everywhere and there is psychedelic shit happening and all the young people are basically rebelling and it was in the midst of all that. I reached a point where there was really a philosophical clash with the way that they were teaching and their thoughts about music and so on and so on. I got pretty depressed at one point.

FJ: Did you want to pack it in at that point?

DAVID S. WARE: I wanted to stop going there. I didn't want to stop playing. But I wanted to stop attending. Basically, they asked me not to come back. It was all good, you know, Fred. I met a lot of very fine musicians. That was the main thing.

FJ: Your music is not your run of the mill, paint by numbers jazz, it is highly intelligent, demanding creative improvised music, do you feel that it will take time for the average "Joe" to be able to comprehend it?

DAVID S. WARE: Yeah, well, of course, it will take them time, but I think that the reason for that, the main reason for that is because they don't get a chance to hear as often as they should be heard. I don't see us on the TV. This TV is an all powerful thing. They don't see it on the TV. They don't see it. They don't hear it and so they don't seek it out. That is the main reason why it is going to take them time to warm up to it. It is not being exposed.

FJ: Sad state of affairs considering I can't turn on my television without seeing a country singer in some television movie of the week or one of a hundred country award shows, why has improvised music essentially been excluded from television?

DAVID S. WARE: Fred, it is a whole list of things. It is not body music. Basically, it is not body music. It is not music that you can dance to. It is not background music. It is music that requires some attention. It is a whole thing about record sales too. It is the whole thing about record sales and that is the indication as to your worthiness to be on TV. That how it runs. This whole Grammy thing is based on record sales. If you have a certain amount of record sales, then you are registered. You're registered. You are in. But until you reach those seven figure record sales, you can forget about it, Fred. That is just the way it works as far as I can see. It is based upon numbers. It is based upon nothing else. If we reached the seven figures, we would be in the Grammys too. That is just all it is.

FJ: So hell will freeze over before you get a Grammy nod?

DAVID S. WARE: Well, yeah, I think so, Fred. The thing in my mind is that I truly believe that it is possible. It is possible for us to sell seven figures. It is possible. Our music is not so strange and so other worldly that nobody can hear it and nobody can enjoy it. I don't believe that. I believe that it is just a matter of letting people be exposed to it. That is all.

FJ: Does your music require a substantial amount of intelligence?

DAVID S. WARE: I think it requires a higher music sense, yeah. It requires a higher sensitivity. The music is designed to make you think and to take you deeper into the human experience.

FJ: Does the average "Joe" have that kind of committed sensitivity?

DAVID S. WARE: I think that the potential is there in a lot of people. It is just not getting a chance to develop because they are not being exposed to it. I think that the potential is there, but in a lot of people, the potential could be certainly raised. That's what I think, Fred.

FJ: A handful of decades ago, jazz was the popular music in this country.


FJ: That no longer seems to be the case.

DAVID S. WARE: Uh huh.

FJ: What has spawned the downward spiral?

DAVID S. WARE: With the passage of time, everything changes. In the 1960s, it was one thing and people die. People die out, Fred. Heads of record companies change. Other trends come in. It is basically the passage of time. We can't expect for things to be the way they were in the 1960s. I know, first hand, that there was a thing. This may be a sidebar, but it relates to what we are talking about. One year ago, almost exactly a year ago, we opened a Sonic Youth set. The kids were very, very, very enthusiastic. Now there is an audience, Fred. There's millions of these kids like that, who are not being exposed to what it is we do, who are open to it. The thing that stands between us and them is promoters. Promoters. Basically, it comes down to promoters and agents, all the in between people. But it works. It works, Fred. They can hear the music. If I had an opportunity to pick and choose exactly who I want to play in front of, it would be those young kids. Those sets of young kids, who are in the millions. There are hundreds of millions of them. But the doors are closed, Fred.

FJ: Tragic.

DAVID S. WARE: Yeah, doors are closed.

FJ: Flight of I is a heavy record.

DAVID S. WARE: I felt real good about Flight of I, Fred. I thought it was a very strong album. I feel very good about it. That was my first DIW recording and I felt like I was going to have a good future with these people and I felt real positive about it.

FJ: When were you approached to record for Sony / Columbia?

DAVID S. WARE: We were playing in France five years ago. Five years ago, we did a show in France and Branford was present and he heard the band live and then two years later, he called me and said that he was becoming the artistic director at Columbia and he wanted to record the band.

FJ: Has Columbia given the same freedom as the indies have?

DAVID S. WARE: More. More. Total freedom.

FJ: Branford has since stepped down from his position as the artistic director, does it concern you that that freedom will no longer be there?

DAVID S. WARE: Well, I didn't hear that, Fred. I didn't hear that. We will have to see what happens.

FJ: Your follow-up outing to Go See the World is a departure for you, might leave a lot of mouths open.

DAVID S. WARE: We have a body of work. There is at least a dozen albums where they can hear this thing that we do. We know that we can do that and it is documented and so it is time to move on now. I want to make sure that what we're doing is clear. I want everybody to hear exactly what each and every member is doing. I want to make the music clear. However I have to do that, I'm going to do that. I want to make the music clear. If we stress our collective talents with this collective improvisational thing, there is so much happening at the same time that I think it passes most people. Most people don't catch it. They just don't catch it because there is too much happening. It may not be as clear. It is not clear. I am going to deconstruct my own music now. I am going to deconstruct my own music. I'm going to set it up in a way that it is clear. I want everybody to hear it, unmistakably. Boom, boom, boom, boom. However you have to do that. I am into great variety. I am into different ways of doing whatever it is that I do. I am into different angles. I like to approach it from different angles, not at the same angles all the time. Like I said, Fred, we have at least a dozen albums of the work being documented a certain way. It is time to move on now. It is time to move on. But we approach it from a slightly different angle.

FJ: Susie Ibarra left your band.

DAVID S. WARE: Yeah, she's out. Guilermmo Brown is in now.

FJ: What different shades does Guilermmo bring to your music?

DAVID S. WARE: Oh, there is much difference. He's much different than anybody that I have ever had.

FJ: How so?

DAVID S. WARE: Well, for one thing, I'm not saying the others weren't steady, but he is certainly a steady musician and there is no problems with him playing whatever kind of beat that I want. He can deal with it. He can deal with it because he understands what I do. He knows. He does not have just one concept. He is not a one concept free drummer, does everything free all the time. Everything is one size fits all. He is not that kind of drummer. He is the kind of drummer who can play very intelligently, whatever you put in front of him, whatever different kinds of meters, beats, and things that not all avant-garde drummers are equipped to do. I'll tell you straight up, Fred, not all of them can do it. This young man has the ability to do that like that. I don't have to worry about whether or not I should pull out this one because this or that. I can pull out whatever I want with him and he's on it.

FJ: That gives you a lot of options.

DAVID S. WARE: Of course, it does. I don't have to concern myself about him being able to meet the challenge at hand. If you are playing a calypso, then that beat, that push has got to be there. You can't be learning how to play no calypso. You've got to know how to play a calypso. And that is what I am talking about, Fred. You can't be learning. If I pull out something, you have got to be playing it. You can't be learning how to play it. You have got to know how to play it. He has that kind of head, that kind of maturity. He has that. He has such maturity already.

FJ: You are throwing the gauntlet down by charting a course in a new direction, will you continue down this contemporary path?

DAVID S. WARE: I will tell you this much, Fred. There is going to be more deconstruction. It's going to be a lot more deconstruction. And the music is going to change. There is a lot of stuff to look forward to. There going to be a lot of surprises, Fred. This is just a teaser.

FJ: You tease you.

Fred Jung is Editor-In-Chief and member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Comments? Email him.