Courtesy of David S. Ware
FIRESIDE CHAT WITH DAVID S. WARE
Have you heard Third Ear Recitation? How about Godspelized? Flight of
I? If not, you can not possibly understand the size of David S. Ware's
improvising hand. It is large. But since I heard through a little birdie
that Columbia is "sizing down" it's jazz department (the tragedy), I am
a bit concerned with what will happen to Ware, one of the monsters on
the tenor. His latest album is as "in the pocket" as I have ever heard
Ware and it is a nice change of pace. It is slated to be released in May
and I would be all over it if I were you. Welcome David S. Ware, as always,
unedited and in his own words.
FRED JUNG: Let's start from the beginning.
DAVID S. WARE: Well, I got started in, I took up the saxophone in 1959
in my school system here. I was involved in all the school activities
in fifth grade, all the way through twelfth grade, dance band, marching
band, orchestra, concert band. I took private lessons as a pre-teen and
FJ: What were your listening tastes like then?
DAVID S. WARE: I was listening to Cannonball Adderley, Thelonious Monk,
Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Archie Shepp, and all of those people.
I would catch whoever I could on late night jazz radio. I would listen
to Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.
FJ: At what stage in your development did you make the shift from being
a student of the music to one who is shaping the course of the music?
DAVID S. WARE: I guess that would have been in Boston. I started playing
around in Boston when I was going to school up there with other students
who had different, various bands and things.
FJ: Where were you attending school?
DAVID S. WARE: I was going to school in Boston. I don't really want to
mention the institution because I don't really appreciate what happened
FJ: What happened there?
DAVID S. WARE: I was going to music school in Boston. I promised myself
that whatever I would accomplish in music, I would never give them any
credit because they don't really deserve it and so I am letting you know,
but it is common knowledge where I went. Anyway, I was going to school
up there and I started playing around.
FJ: You must have been jaded by the whole experience. It had to have been
DAVID S. WARE: Well, it was a struggle. You have to remember, Fred, that
I was seventeen years old and this is the late sixties and there is a
whole lot of protests and revolution around everywhere and there is psychedelic
shit happening and all the young people are basically rebelling and it
was in the midst of all that. I reached a point where there was really
a philosophical clash with the way that they were teaching and their thoughts
about music and so on and so on. I got pretty depressed at one point.
FJ: Did you want to pack it in at that point?
DAVID S. WARE: I wanted to stop going there. I didn't want to stop playing.
But I wanted to stop attending. Basically, they asked me not to come back.
It was all good, you know, Fred. I met a lot of very fine musicians. That
was the main thing.
FJ: Your music is not your run of the mill, paint by numbers jazz, it
is highly intelligent, demanding creative improvised music, do you feel
that it will take time for the average "Joe" to be able to comprehend
DAVID S. WARE: Yeah, well, of course, it will take them time, but I think
that the reason for that, the main reason for that is because they don't
get a chance to hear as often as they should be heard. I don't see us
on the TV. This TV is an all powerful thing. They don't see it on the
TV. They don't see it. They don't hear it and so they don't seek it out.
That is the main reason why it is going to take them time to warm up to
it. It is not being exposed.
FJ: Sad state of affairs considering I can't turn on my television without
seeing a country singer in some television movie of the week or one of
a hundred country award shows, why has improvised music essentially been
excluded from television?
DAVID S. WARE: Fred, it is a whole list of things. It is not body music.
Basically, it is not body music. It is not music that you can dance to.
It is not background music. It is music that requires some attention.
It is a whole thing about record sales too. It is the whole thing about
record sales and that is the indication as to your worthiness to be on
TV. That how it runs. This whole Grammy thing is based on record sales.
If you have a certain amount of record sales, then you are registered.
You're registered. You are in. But until you reach those seven figure
record sales, you can forget about it, Fred. That is just the way it works
as far as I can see. It is based upon numbers. It is based upon nothing
else. If we reached the seven figures, we would be in the Grammys too.
That is just all it is.
FJ: So hell will freeze over before you get a Grammy nod?
DAVID S. WARE: Well, yeah, I think so, Fred. The thing in my mind is that
I truly believe that it is possible. It is possible for us to sell seven
figures. It is possible. Our music is not so strange and so other worldly
that nobody can hear it and nobody can enjoy it. I don't believe that.
I believe that it is just a matter of letting people be exposed to it.
That is all.
FJ: Does your music require a substantial amount of intelligence?
DAVID S. WARE: I think it requires a higher music sense, yeah. It requires
a higher sensitivity. The music is designed to make you think and to take
you deeper into the human experience.
FJ: Does the average "Joe" have that kind of committed sensitivity?
DAVID S. WARE: I think that the potential is there in a lot of people.
It is just not getting a chance to develop because they are not being
exposed to it. I think that the potential is there, but in a lot of people,
the potential could be certainly raised. That's what I think, Fred.
FJ: A handful of decades ago, jazz was the popular music in this country.
DAVID S. WARE: Yeah.
FJ: That no longer seems to be the case.
DAVID S. WARE: Uh huh.
FJ: What has spawned the downward spiral?
DAVID S. WARE: With the passage of time, everything changes. In the 1960s,
it was one thing and people die. People die out, Fred. Heads of record
companies change. Other trends come in. It is basically the passage of
time. We can't expect for things to be the way they were in the 1960s.
I know, first hand, that there was a thing. This may be a sidebar, but
it relates to what we are talking about. One year ago, almost exactly
a year ago, we opened a Sonic Youth set. The kids were very, very, very
enthusiastic. Now there is an audience, Fred. There's millions of these
kids like that, who are not being exposed to what it is we do, who are
open to it. The thing that stands between us and them is promoters. Promoters.
Basically, it comes down to promoters and agents, all the in between people.
But it works. It works, Fred. They can hear the music. If I had an opportunity
to pick and choose exactly who I want to play in front of, it would be
those young kids. Those sets of young kids, who are in the millions. There
are hundreds of millions of them. But the doors are closed, Fred.
DAVID S. WARE: Yeah, doors are closed.
FJ: Flight of I is a heavy record.
DAVID S. WARE: I felt real good about Flight of I, Fred. I thought it
was a very strong album. I feel very good about it. That was my first
DIW recording and I felt like I was going to have a good future with these
people and I felt real positive about it.
FJ: When were you approached to record for Sony / Columbia?
DAVID S. WARE: We were playing in France five years ago. Five years ago,
we did a show in France and Branford was present and he heard the band
live and then two years later, he called me and said that he was becoming
the artistic director at Columbia and he wanted to record the band.
FJ: Has Columbia given the same freedom as the indies have?
DAVID S. WARE: More. More. Total freedom.
FJ: Branford has since stepped down from his position as the artistic
director, does it concern you that that freedom will no longer be there?
DAVID S. WARE: Well, I didn't hear that, Fred. I didn't hear that. We
will have to see what happens.
FJ: Your follow-up outing to Go See the World is a departure for you,
might leave a lot of mouths open.
DAVID S. WARE: We have a body of work. There is at least a dozen albums
where they can hear this thing that we do. We know that we can do that
and it is documented and so it is time to move on now. I want to make
sure that what we're doing is clear. I want everybody to hear exactly
what each and every member is doing. I want to make the music clear. However
I have to do that, I'm going to do that. I want to make the music clear.
If we stress our collective talents with this collective improvisational
thing, there is so much happening at the same time that I think it passes
most people. Most people don't catch it. They just don't catch it because
there is too much happening. It may not be as clear. It is not clear.
I am going to deconstruct my own music now. I am going to deconstruct
my own music. I'm going to set it up in a way that it is clear. I want
everybody to hear it, unmistakably. Boom, boom, boom, boom. However you
have to do that. I am into great variety. I am into different ways of
doing whatever it is that I do. I am into different angles. I like to
approach it from different angles, not at the same angles all the time.
Like I said, Fred, we have at least a dozen albums of the work being documented
a certain way. It is time to move on now. It is time to move on. But we
approach it from a slightly different angle.
FJ: Susie Ibarra left your band.
DAVID S. WARE: Yeah, she's out. Guilermmo Brown is in now.
FJ: What different shades does Guilermmo bring to your music?
DAVID S. WARE: Oh, there is much difference. He's much different than
anybody that I have ever had.
FJ: How so?
DAVID S. WARE: Well, for one thing, I'm not saying the others weren't
steady, but he is certainly a steady musician and there is no problems
with him playing whatever kind of beat that I want. He can deal with it.
He can deal with it because he understands what I do. He knows. He does
not have just one concept. He is not a one concept free drummer, does
everything free all the time. Everything is one size fits all. He is not
that kind of drummer. He is the kind of drummer who can play very intelligently,
whatever you put in front of him, whatever different kinds of meters,
beats, and things that not all avant-garde drummers are equipped to do.
I'll tell you straight up, Fred, not all of them can do it. This young
man has the ability to do that like that. I don't have to worry about
whether or not I should pull out this one because this or that. I can
pull out whatever I want with him and he's on it.
FJ: That gives you a lot of options.
DAVID S. WARE: Of course, it does. I don't have to concern myself about
him being able to meet the challenge at hand. If you are playing a calypso,
then that beat, that push has got to be there. You can't be learning how
to play no calypso. You've got to know how to play a calypso. And that
is what I am talking about, Fred. You can't be learning. If I pull out
something, you have got to be playing it. You can't be learning how to
play it. You have got to know how to play it. He has that kind of head,
that kind of maturity. He has that. He has such maturity already.
FJ: You are throwing the gauntlet down by charting a course in a new direction,
will you continue down this contemporary path?
DAVID S. WARE: I will tell you this much, Fred. There is going to be more
deconstruction. It's going to be a lot more deconstruction. And the music
is going to change. There is a lot of stuff to look forward to. There
going to be a lot of surprises, Fred. This is just a teaser.
FJ: You tease you.
Fred Jung is Editor-In-Chief and member of the Congressional Black Caucus.