It has been difficult for me to plug into these recordings, not because of their quality, but because so much music to listen to and to write about is a task of a large order. In these recordings are documented live performances in front of enthusiastic audiences in Chiasso, Switzerland in 1998 and in both Terni and Milan, Italy in 2003.
The temporal coincidence that exists here is fitting given the subject matter of my interview with David which was concerned almost exclusively with consciousness and awareness that we are everything and nothing at the same time. And that music for him is the expression of this unity through his nervous system. His nervous system dissolves into the notes he blows through his saxophone. Those blustery, large, split-toned notes which are put together in exceptionally expressive phrases, melodies, arpeggiations and ostinatos that are all combined in an unpredictable fashion but whose limits are managed by rhythm and David’s inner sense of a limitless evolution.
Especially notable in the first disc is Ware’s stepping back to allow his quartet members to open up and chart a course. Ibarra on drums is delicate and persistent and right on the money in terms of her placement of percussive sound. Parker demonstrates his aural attention to developing atmosphere, darkness, and revealing his unrelenting procession with the bow as well as his remarkable ability to smoothly transfer from the abstract to the squareness of a rhythmic basis. Shipp moves in the same way: heavy-handed, chordal, repetitive abstraction migrates with Parker into a steady rhythmic contour or is completely released on its own. Ware begins and ends with a theme that can be remembered and even whistled later. Well, that is an assessment of the first cut. The remainder of the first disc carries with it the same kind of high-ended improvisation into which the listener can delightfully plunge headlong and be happy that it can last for three more hours if that is the listener’s choice.
The other discs are equally as dense, thorough and meaty. Hamid Drake performs on drums on the second disc and brands the beat with a hardline of hearty, stable, and steady strokes and swishes. On one of the discs is an unforgettably dynamic performance of Sonny Rollins’s FREEDOM SUITE, which David arranged and recorded with his quartet on a separate album in 2002. That DSW quartet is the original one with Guillermo E. Brown on drums. In this release, Brown is also the drummer. His drumming is precise, full and is completely supportive of the remaining players; when he solos, he is accompanied in the backdrop by Parker, but demonstrates his capacity for stirring the drumset, keeping it alive and showing all its parts. In his solo spots, Shipp’s presence is undying, strident, and partial only to his instrument. The players in this rendition of Rollins’s piece take their places in a stark and determined manner. It is for all these reasons that this particular performance of FREEDOM SUITE is outstanding.
I will tell you about one hook that astonished me. Yes, I was in the throes of listening and surprisingly penetrating the air was the melody of THE WAY WE WERE, which being completely unexpected, spoke to me not only of David’s and my having a mind-bending (for me) conversation but also of the idea that David is more alive in the world than one would think. The unbelievable A cappella saxophone portrait of this song is worth the entire set of CDs. And I won’t tell you which disc it is on. It is up to you to find out.
I finished writing this article at 2:22 pm. The time and place and participation in writing was being aware with David.