Tenor saxophonist David S. Ware just died on October 18th at the age of 62. Most people, even jazz fans, have never heard of him. He was an uncompromising avant-gardist who wouldn’t appeal to most people. And he never tried or wanted to.
In this age of mediocrity and hype people like him become more singular. I’m thinking about certain fixtures of smooth jazz but won’t mention any names. You know who they are. Ware followed in the wake of other progressives like Steve Lacy, John Tchicai, Frank Wright, and of course the late Albert Ayler, whose 1970 death by drowning in the East River at just 34 remains a mystery til this day.
If I played his music on KCRW I’d probably lose 90% of listeners and only keep those who were distracted or doing something else and not really tuned in. Henry Rollins would fare better, because he regularly features musicians who lived and played on the outer edges of the musical universe; listeners will stay with him.
For me Ware is important because of his unwillingness to compromise in his art. I saw him in November, 1977 at a loft club called Axis in Soho. It was a time of the loft scene in New York City, and people who bought in the neighborhood made a lot of money as this area became gentrified, hip, and popular. I don’t think the loft scene survived the gentrification of the area.
I’ve put out an impressionistic photo (not by design but by necessity) that I took with my trusty old Olympus OM-1 SLR camera, pushing Tri-ex film to 1000 to get whatever light I could in the dim interior of the loft. The color photo is much more recent