David S. Ware Quartet
The Freedom Suite
In which one of the greatest foursomes in today’s jazz scene takes on one of the most important works of the 1950s and manages to be respectful at the same time that it takes chances with the material. If you think this is important and amazing, you’d be right.
Sonny Rollins’ 20-minute-long original was the first extended work for one soloist; he was supported only by Oscar Pettiford’s bass and Max Roach on drums, and the piece managed to hold together brilliantly, bristling with rage and singing with hope. So why do we need another one? I don’t know…but I’m glad this disc exists.
Ware, probably the most ambitious saxophonist out there, calls on bass superstar William Parker and fiery drummer Guillermo E. Brown to take on the ghosts of Pettiford and Roach, and adds a new wrinkle: stud pianist Matthew Shipp. They stretch “The Freedom Suite” out to twice its original length, and use the additional time to add some things that Rollins may have anticipated but never dreamed of back in 1958: Shipp’s Latin/Cecil Taylor solo during the first movement, Parker’s wild sawing in the second, and Brown’s heavy Tony Williams influence during the third. They also append an “Interlude” between parts one and two, with semi-free exploration by all members.
This is not avant garde honk/shriek/whisper/gargle, nor is it plain simple bebop redux. Ware keeps the skeleton of “The Freedom Suite,” but fleshes it out with some new muscle. Their interplay is jaw-dropping, and it never sounds too tight OR too sloppy, which is amazing because it’s probably all live (it was all recorded on one day this summer).
While Ware’s quartet isn’t quite able to match the intensity of the original, this performance is just as interesting and inspiring as the original, as it manages to incorporate the last forty years of jazz history. It’s not a difficult listen, but it’s not easy either by a long shot. What it is is great listening, cool listening, oh-my-god listening. There are a few moments here where it almost seems like these four men have made jazz important, crucial, relevant again.
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