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Freedom Suite by David S. Ware Quartet

Probably the first impulse in writing about the recent release by Aumfidelity of FREEDOM SUITE played by the David S. Ware Quartet is to compare it to the original 1958 recording of Sonny Rollins' s composition. Knowing how Sonny Rollins pioneered a continual tenor line , this piece helps to hear Ware’s rendition, but hearing the original also allows the listener to know that Ware’s quartet (William Parker on bass, Matthew Shipp on piano, Guillermo Brown on drums, David S. Ware on tenor sax) is making the piece its own, with due reverence.

From the very first statement of the theme, the quartet takes the music into polyphonic waters. Ware launches his throaty intricate tenor saxophone sounds as the carrier of the chorus. The bass and drums follow Ware’s lead but also begin to switch tempos so that the sax and the rhythm section develop a substantial interplay with each other. The music which arises becomes thick with intensity. The piano enters in seemingly not as an instrument that travels along with the crew but as a special guest. Shipp plants heavy chords that climb up and down the keyboard yet stay relegated to the lower, deeper end of the tone spectrum. He states the theme of the music synchronistically with Ware only once and then in the last section of the piece does Shipp take the theme through his own improvisational vagaries. Parker and Brown act as an unbreakable unit of time-keeping each taking high-profile interludes at points within the whole.

The quartet extends and stretches the original 19’25" of FREEDOM SUITE into 40 minutes. The quartet examines, twists, elucidates, breaks open everything that Rollins wrote to express his own creative freedoms. The potency of Ware’s interpretation of Rollins' work emphasizes the meaning of Rollins' original intentions and puts on the music a value that politicizes it nearly 50 years later. The same kinds of struggles that Rollins had in 1958 continue. The context is different. For instance, sociologically, this music is permissible in a world where the independent label is a medium for recordings of African-American music. Musicologically, the single tenor heralding an anthem for freedom of expression is acceptable: the groundwork has been laid by an entire recent and distant past history of African-American musicians. Matthew Shipp’s contribution on piano injects a weightiness that despite the brightness of Ware’s tenor essentially flatlines the music within a set a parameters which is narrow and therefore bears a straightforward & powerful impact on the senses. It is as if the group is saying yet again, on behalf of all African-Americans: we exist and we believe in our capacities to render beauty, poetry, and recite the story of the reluctance to accept our culture into a world where a dominant culture reigns.

How often this is said in so many improvisational ways that the number is close to unknowable. Still, very few listen to how the expressiveness is laid out. This mode of expression becomes more stringent as time passes. Instead of the window of opportunities opening wider, it seems even with all that seems to be happening to support the music, the window is remaining only open a certain distance.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: David S. Ware Quartet
  • CD Title: Freedom Suite
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Aum fidelity
  • Musicians: David S. Ware (tenor saxophone); Guillermo Brown (drums); William Parker (bass); Matthew Shipp (piano)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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