DAVID S. WARE - Go See The World (Columbia/1998); Surrendered (Columbia/2000)
These two releases will probably stand as any major record company's last flirtation w/ avant-garde jazz. An excellent last stand they be, too. Ware is, along w/ bass player/composer William Parker (both of whom play together often, as on these two CDs), perhaps the great avant-jazz player of the last 30 years. A 30+ year veteran who cut his teeth in Cecil Taylor's '70s/'80s units, saxophonist Ware really hit his stride some time in the early '90s, at which he point he released a whole bunch of titles on labels like Silkheart, DIW and even Homestead, in a brief fit of jazzbo signing it engaged in at the time.
If I'm not mistaken - and I might be - I think it may just be producer Steven Joerg who was actually running Homestead at the time, quit his post to start the great Aum Fidelity label, and in fact produced this album for Columbia. Of course... maybe I have my facts wrong. Whatever the case, perhaps the most odd aspect of Ware's short tenure w/ Columbia - which only lasted these two, now deleted, albums - is that he was signed by none other than Branford Marsalis, a guy I can only assume must be hipper than his square-as-can-be brother (which wouldn't be hard!).
I guess the most important thing to note in mentioning these two CDs is that, for my money, they rank as some of the finest in Ware's rather huge catalogue. There's certainly no let-up in ferocity; if anything there is perhaps some more melody coming into play and the production is a little cleaner than some of his previous efforts, though there's no insult there. It simply sounds bolder w/ a little more room to breathe, and his quartet - William Parker on bass, Matthew Shipp on piano and Susia Ibarra and Guillermo E. Brown on drums (respectively) - all veterans of the NYC scene, is white-hot, just like the oft-mentioned Coltrane quartet everyone and their dog compared them to at the time. And let's face it, you don't get to hear a free-jazz rendition of "The Way We Were" too often, do you?
As you'd expect, both of these fine releases sold diddly-squat and Ware and co. were dropped from the label and went running back to indieland once again soon thereafter (there is an excellent 3CD set on Thirsty Ear from 2005 entitled Live In The World). Whilst you're at it, my second-fave jazz album of the '90s was from Ware and his quartet: Wisdom of Uncertainty on Aum Fidelity, a brain-expanding blow-out from 1997; and his 2001 CD, also on AM, Corridors & Parallels, is a real treat, an attempt by Ware to try his hand at "cosmic jazz", substituting Shipp's piano w/ a synthesizer. Now in lesser hands that really coulda sucked the big one. I mean a synthesizer in jazz: that's a loaded gun w/ horrendous potential. But a label like AM wouldn't've released it if it had, and the expected/anticipated/hoped-for congealing of Sun Ra/Krautrock forays into sound all take place. I don't hear Ware's estimable name bandied about too much these days, so I guess it's up to me to do the talking.