It would take more than a kidney transplant to silence the great David S. Ware. Saturnian, a solo saxophone performance recorded last October at the Abrons Art Center in New York, marks Ware’s return to the stage after his operation and rehabilitation. Planned as a series of limited-edition solo releases, Saturnian features the kind of spiritually aggressive improv that Ware in known for. His best work has always been his solo pieces, and he does not stray from his quest for ascension through the breath here, in his 50th year of playing and practicing.
In addition to tenor sax, Ware also plays sexello and stritch, a curveless alto, on the three tracks. “Methone” builds off of simple scales, taking each in directions soft and abrasive. For “Pallene,” the runs are little shorter, sharper, often reaching and sustaining a high wail before slowly returning to a base melodic line. “Anthe” is the most hermetic, meditative effort of the set, at least at the outset. There are still the runs and long, staccato, single breath lines, but there is an underlying melancholic tone that is arresting. He ends the piece, and the set, with piercing runs, as if the end of the song is really just a peak, that more can and will be said.
When done right, there may be no more satisfying music than improv, the unique opportunity to see an artist alone with chosen instrument, and using skill and technique to reach emotional states. Saturnian is merely the latest from one of the best. David S. Ware refuses to compromise, even with his recent illnesses. His work has always been about rising above the body, anyway.