David S. Ware: In Memoriam

Ware2Ware Program-BackThe prologue and the epilogue of Ka-ching open with David S. Ware: the former marks his return to the concert stage, in 2009, at the Abrons Art Center on the Lower East Side—for a solo performance, no less—after a kidney transplant; the latter marks his memorial service, in 2012, at St. Peter’s in New York (a church notable for its jazz ministry), a celebration of his life in words, music and images.

I had the honor of attending both events. Seen here is the St. Peter’s program, which itself speaks volumes. So too does this excerpt from Larry Blumenfeld’s appreciation of the service:

A big man who could produce an immense sound, Ware first gained recognition in the 1970s during Manhattan’s loft-jazz scene, flirted with more widespread attention in the 1990s, and ended up an eminence for a resurgent free-jazz community. His burly tone, his focused pursuit each time he worked a melodic figure or simple groove into something deeper, something that squealed and blurted and soared along an arc far more elusive than simple song and yet nearly always made melodic sense, the command with which he led his groups to find gloriously fractured paths toward completeness—all this was the sort of stuff that makes for sturdy faith. And freely improvised music of the meaningful sort, while being many other things too, is always an act of faith.

Ware, among the greatest of saxophonists who inherited the legacy of John Coltrane, was, like Coltrane, far more focused on the spiritual quest, the “universal, cosmic, all-inclusive Self,” as Ware calls it, than on the quotidian struggle that is politics. But politics too, and particularly collective action, may also be an act of faith striving toward the all-inclusive Self.