JUNE/JULY 2006

THE VANISHING AFRO-AMERICAN

DAVID S. WARE, LAST OF THE SAXOPHONE COLOSSI

by Howard Hampton

David S. Ware could be the last of a vanishing breed—those imposing tenor giants who once bestrode (a la Sonny Rollins’s “Strode Rode” and namesake Woody Strode in Once Upon a Time in the West) the earth as saxophone colossi. He’s distilled the unreserved, pathfinding stratagems of Rollins, the mystic envelope-pushing of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, the sputtering guttural rasp of Archie Shepp and the sensual one of early Gato Barbieri, into a pulsing wall of circular-breathing incantation. Ware’s enormous, keening tone and jaggedly breathtaking blocks of song and fury suggest an aural equivalent to Monument Valley rock formations—or a black John Wayne galloping through them with the obsessive, impassive swagger of a dinosaur on the trail of some equally primordial Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Ware’s dense, quavering lines and honking phrases loom over abstract harmonic landscapes like a force of mythological nature: an overblowing Minotaur or maybe a MIRV griffon (half warhead, half lion) performing a tumultuous reconciliation of intelligent design and chaos theory, roaring thoughtfully against the twilight. Which is a hyperbolic way of describing his romance with sound in its purest, most naked form. But the secret of his art (or at least a good chunk of it) has to do with the way he unrepentantly sculpts and finesses the hyperbolic qualities of free jazz itself, the over-the-top, out-of-their-heads, squall-and-scrawl qualities that can otherwise result in one interminable, unmodulated freak-out after another.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please purchase a copy of the magazine from The McSweeney’s Store.

Howard Hampton’s psychocalifragilistic Born in Flames: Termite Dreams, Dialectical Fairy Tales, and Pop Apocalypses will be published in the fall by Harvard University Press.


STAY CONNECTED
News on Facebook Photos on Instagram Stuff on Pinterest Announcements by RSS Sounds on Soundcloud Exclusives on Tumblr Updates on Twitter

Subscribe to our mailing list for periodic announcements about online exclusives and the occasional deal.