Sad news. The great free jazz tenor player David S Ware died on Thursday aged only 62. He’d been very ill with kidney disease for some years.

Ware came to prominence in the mid-70s as a member of Cecil Taylor’s groups. After that, he worked in a number of contexts, most notably his own long-term quartet which always included pianist Matthew Shipp and bassist William Parker, although the drummer changed over the years. This band released most of their material on a variety of independent labels, but had a short-live contract with Columbia, of which Ware said:

Hopefully it will help people look upon my music in a different light, to draw connections to the past and to see how it fits in the tradition. There’s a misunderstanding about the kind of music we play, that there’s no discipline, that anything goes. We’re fighting to dispel those myths. We’re like the Marines coming in to create a platform for the spirit of exploration and freedom in music.

What I like about Ware’s music is that way that it reflects both words of the term “free jazz”. He was very much at the avant-garde, exploratory end of the tradition, yet as the quote above suggests, you were always aware that he was part of the tradition. (He studied informally with Sonny Rollins, as well as formally at Berklee). You can hear a lot of late Coltrane in his music, but if you listen carefully, you can hear Coleman Hawkins in there as well.

The jazz world is definitely poorer for his passing.

Fuller appreciations, with some more footage: