Album Review: Birth of a Being by David S. Ware’s Apogee

DAVID S. WARE / APOGEE Birth Of A Being (Expanded)

AUM096/97 DSW-ARC01

Personnel:

  • David S. Ware: tenor saxophone
  • Cooper-Moore: piano, ashimba on *
  • Marc Edwards: drums

Original sessions produced by David S. Ware and Cooper-Moore; Recorded by Fred Seibert at C.I. Recording, NYC on April 14 & 15, 1977

This edition produced by Steven Joerg. Mixed with and mastered by Michael Marciano at Systems Two, Brooklyn in July 2015

Track Listing

Disc One – Birth Of A Being
1. Prayer (10:54)
2. Thematic Womb (16:34)
3. A Primary Piece #1 (13:48)
4. A Primary Piece #2 (12:00)

Disc One – Birth Of A Being (Expanded)
5. Prayer [alt. take] (12:07)
6. Cry (14:06)
7. Stop Time (17:05)
8. Ashimba * [C-M]. (2:30)
9. Solo (6:56)

All compositions (except *) by David S. Ware; published by Gandharvasphere/Daswa (ASCAP)

Birth of a Being is finally back in print! This was previously released by Hat Hut Records during the seventies on vinyl. I need to go back in time and share how things led up to this recording. Apogee had planned to do a recording however, it didn’t happen while we were playing in Boston. No, Ware and Cooper-Moore didn’t get around to doing this until after Ware and I had played with Cecil Taylor. I had left Cecil, but Ware stayed on for a while, after my departure. Here’s how we got our start in New York City. First, we had to move from Boston to New York. New York City is my home. That was no problem. Ware and Cooper-Moore had to find a place to live. They did so living at an old building at 501 Canal Street. It was at this location, Apogee continued rehearsals, once we settled in the city. After a couple of months, we decided we had done enough rehearsing. We wanted to play shows in the city. We learned that the music was happening at Sam Rivers’ place, The Studio Rivbea. During that era, you only needed the recommendation of another musician to play there. That’s a far cry from what’s happening in today’s music market.

Ware was interested in connecting with Cecil Taylor after we moved to New York. He made inquiries but, he wasn’t getting anywhere. As fate would have it, I was working at a bank on the corner of Broadway and Chamber Street. It was late in the afternoon and who walks in? It was Cecil himself. I recognized him immediately from his photo shown on many of his albums. He went to the counter and filled out a form and he got on line to wait for the next available teller. I was excited to finally see him in the flesh. Cecil didn’t have to wait long. The line moved fairly fast. Before I knew it, he was in front of one of my teller coworkers. I could tell she didn’t know who Cecil was. I went over to her and asked her, “Do you know who this is?” She didn’t say anything as I knew she didn’t know. I told her, “This is Cecil Taylor. He’s a famous Jazz musician.” Cecil was watching this exchange. He was pleased that someone knew who he was.

I spoke to Cecil and said, “David Ware has been trying to get in contact with you.” Cecil wrote his telephone number on a piece of paper and gave it to me. At the time, we didn’t know that Cecil was already aware of David and Apogee. Word of mouth from music fans had spread far and wide. When I got off work, I went to 501 Canal Street and told David, “Here’s Cecil’s telephone number. He’s expecting to hear from you.” David was shocked and surprised. He had been trying very hard to find Cecil and here I somehow managed to hand him the information he needed. He took the paper and said he would get in touch with Cecil the next day. That was the beginning of our connection with Cecil Taylor. This led to further talks, over the course of many weeks and months. If Cecil went to hear live music, he would call Ware and Ware would call me. We hung out with Cecil whenever and wherever we could.

Cecil mentioned that he was going to put together a large ensemble for a concert at Carnegie Hall. Would we like to part of it? We both said yes. Cecil kept us in the loop. When he began the rehearsals of his large ensemble, this caused Apogee to fall apart. We were rehearsing with Cecil about three times a week. That pretty much killed the band. Had I been thinking, Ware and I could have made time and held a rehearsal for Apogee once a week. I have deep regrets about not having done this. Apogee didn’t have to fall by the wayside. Cooper-Moore, understood. We had moved on, working with Cecil.

Let’s fast forward to life after Cecil. I stayed with the Cecil Taylor Unit for the European summer tour of 1976.  Upon returning to the US, I stepped down. I wanted to stay on but for reasons I won’t go into, I could not. Several months went by and Ware calls out of the blue. He says, “Marc, we’re going to make an Apogee album!” I said, “That’s great! When do you plan to do the recording?” Ware answers, “In two weeks!” I had not been practicing nor doing any playing of any kind. I had gotten a day job and I was busy adjusting to my new life. I quietly set up my drums at home and started practicing for the record date.

When the day of the recording arrived, I went to the studio on 57th Street. It was down the street from Carnegie Hall, closer to Sixth Avenue. I believe I took the elevator up to the space. My first impression of the recording studio, was the room was very large. We basically went into the studio and started to play. I don’t recall doing a rehearsal or anything. Ware had music and we played it right on the spot. The order of the songs may have been in the order that we recorded them. I’m not one hundred percent certain. During my twenty one years with Ware, generally, we would record the songs and afterward, the order might change or not. For this session, it is possible that the songs are in the order of the actual recording. I would have to get confirmation from Cooper-Moore.

The first song, “Prayer” was recorded. I will state that Apogee wasn’t like some of the other Free Jazz band during the seventies. We were focused on using melodic lines and traditional harmonies for our improvisations. Some horn players, leaders of other bands, were more interested in the screaming horn approach. For some, that was all they knew. David, along with Cooper-Moore and yours truly, had a different mentality. We did some of that, but we always operated from a melodic angle; that was our specialty. Cooper-Moore excelled with melodic & harmonic elements as he played the piano. Ware would do the same but concentrate on the melody while I would be doing the rhythm and melodic drumming as well. We would feed off each other. If David played an idea, Cooper-Moore would pick up on it and then I would get it and play something reflective of that particular idea. It goes without saying that this process could happen in reverse order. It all depended on who was inspired on any given day. That’s how we operated. Throughout this album, you will hear Cooper-Moore use traditional melodies and harmonic fundamentals. He works with them and then he’ll turn them around making them sound very unorthodox. Both Cooper-Moore and Ware do that a lot.

“Prayer,” was very much in the spirit of a prayer, displaying much reverence and the attitude of a devotee on any spiritual path. I’m thinking meditation in this regards. I heard this song as an introduction to a gospel piece. We don’t actually go into a traditional gospel mode. We play off the feeling of the lines. I kept my playing on this take, pretty much on the down low. I didn’t want to be too forward. I wanted to vary my playing on each song. That’s how I was thinking for this record date.

On the other hand, “Thematic Womb” struck me as being somewhat intellectual coming from us, but not really. “A Primary Piece, #1 and #2,” tends to fit that bill. For most of our live shows, we did the high energy styled free jazz in Boston and here in New York City. On this recording, we were a little more grounded as we began our musical explorations. The melodic lines were a major factor that kept us within a particular space. The time I spent being off my drums after leaving Cecil also played a role. It doesn’t sound like it on this recording. It sounds like I was playing on a regular basis. I can assure that was not the case. I was working hard at my day job. When you’re young, you have lots of energy. Listening to the music this many years later, my drumming is razor sharp. I like the flow of musical ideas and the sustained musical continuity throughout this album by all of us. Apogee was special. I haven’t been in another band quite like this one.

We were very close both on and off the bandstand. Apogee over time, become a family to me. There was a lot of brotherly love between the three of us. At the time, I was the young upcoming musician in the band. I was the “baby.” Playing with Ware and Cooper-Moore, I got up to speed quickly and played on the level they were on. It took a lot of practicing and working with these men, but I did bridge some of the gap, not all of it. My drumming was more machine gun like back in the day. That’s how the music was coming through. I think my lifestyle played a significant role. During the sixties, folks would go to church on Sundays and come home from the sermon and watch a war movie on Channel Five. That was life during the sixties in New York City. It’s no wonder, you’re hearing machine guns after a steady diet of war movies!

“A Primary Piece, #1,” is a complex melody. We tried playing it as a trio, but it wasn’t coming together. After a few attempts, the band decided to let Ware play the line by himself. Cooper-Moore may have been the one to make this suggestion. Cooper-Moore and I would join in after Ware played the lines. The telepathic communication between the three of us is the result of having done multiple rehearsals while we were living in Boston. This trio was always tight in our live shows. This recording provides ample proof of how together Apogee was. My not having played in months didn’t affect the group. It’s like riding a bicycle. You never really forget even if it’s years later. We mostly recorded the songs for this recording during this two day session. The bulk of the album was done on the first day. It was only on the second day that we listened to some of what we had played. We listened to a few tracks. We wanted to maximize our time in the studio. We didn’t engage with small talk in between the songs. We kept right on recording, going from one song to the next.

Given the nature of this complex melody (“A Primary Piece, #1”), I thought to myself, “I’m going to have to decide what I’m going to play.” As we began playing, ideas flooded my mind and I knew the session was going to be fine. I relaxed and let the music flow through my system. I’m sure this was happening with Ware and Cooper-Moore. This song has a start – stop feeling. I normally fill the space with my drumming whenever I play. As we began playing, I engaged in light drumming and did not fill up the space. I was using my intuition and trusting the creative process. I felt very relaxed and just played the ideas that were coming through.  I kept my loud dynamics down and played using a softer, gentler touch throughout most of this piece. The music does pick up in intensity and we did start to get loud. I was listening to David and Cooper-Moore trying to be mindful of how they were improvising on this song. I stayed with the start – stop approach as I felt it would be most effective for “A Primary Piece, #1.”

Cooper-Moore really supported Ware and yours truly with his melodic piano playing. After a time, I wanted to break down the song, but that didn’t happen. We somehow managed to maintain the basic start – stop approach throughout the song. Ware did make his ascension, playing the higher register of his tenor saxophone, but listen closely, you’ll see he’s aware of the song’s melodic content. From start to finish, Ware maintains the form and structure of the song. The intensity is something you can’t miss. It’s there on most of the tracks. I really love the song’s ending. This was spontaneous and not previously conceived. We were all playing in synch with each other and being in the moment.

“A Primary Piece, #2” continues in a somewhat similar vein as “A Primary Piece, #1.” We begin with sparse playing. I was already into the creative flow and now I’m starting to fill up the room with my sound. Ware and Cooper-Moore were playing on top using the melodic lines as the basis for improvisation. What I’m doing works as it doesn’t disrupt the musical flow of my band mates. As we kept playing, the intensity gradually builds and at some point Ware starts soaring again in the high register of his horn. He does an incredible job working in the mid-range of his horn for the most parts. This has a stabilizing effect on Cooper-Moore and yours truly. Overall, this keeps us grounded. Sometimes, one can experience getting high while playing music, but it’s not from drugs or alcohol. It’s a natural high that occurs when one is playing music from one’s heart and soul. This is the spiritual element that music offers. I will add this isn’t the full package. Most spiritual paths have definitive practices, meaning disciplines, such as: praying, meditating, chanting, channeling energy, and more.

Ware’s playing the head at the end is truly inspired. We had played this song before and I never heard him play the lines as he did on this recording. When the song ended, we knew we had a good take. Once, that happens, I noticed this feeling was prevalent throughout the entire session. We knew we were playing well and the album would be good. This feeling was present from the first song, to the last song.

The second CD starts with an alternate take of “Prayer.” When I put the second CD on, I had not heard these tracks since the day we did the recording. I was even more impressed with the playing on this disc. Some of you are already familiar with the vinyl release of this recording. Imagine hearing the tracks on the second CD for the first time after all these years. I think most listeners will get a thrill from hearing the other tracks that weren’t included on the original release.

As the band continues playing “A Prayer,” we played much more slowly on the second take. Both Cooper-Moore and Ware really emphasized the melodic lines of this soulful piece. The head was so majestic that I played very softly and made a conscious decision to almost, not be heard. I played, maintaining an even softer dynamic level compared to the previous songs. The undercurrent I was generating was very soft so as not to overpower the melodic explorations, happening on top. Overall, this song develops differently from our first take. The feeling is definitely not the same as what we did earlier. The change of this performance is so great, clearly, I don’t know if we did this take on the same day. I’m almost tempted to believe we may have done this on the second day of recording. David’s hitting the high notes, is one of many inspired moments on this CD. The way we ended “Prayer,” feels like we’re in church on a Sunday afternoon.

“Cry,” is a ballad. I changed to brushes for this song. Brushes always reduce the loud dynamics of any band. I’m still playing with brushes even now. I tend to change between drum sticks, brushes, and timpani mallets, when I play drums. This is something I’ve been doing since before I was with Cecil up to the present day. My use of brushes increased during my tenure with Cecil Taylor. What was great about this session is that Ware did not provide instructions on what he wanted. There was very little of that. We had already done our homework, woodshedding in Boston. Woodshedding is another term for practicing. I started to use drum sticks but only very briefly during this song.  “Cry,” features David S. Ware and Cooper-Moore. This song brings out, not only Ware’s sound, but his commanding technique, and control of the tenor saxophone. 

“Stop Time” is a completely different animal. We play for a short duration then we stop playing, leaving a small space of silence! Each time we stop, it allows one member to take a short solo. First up was Cooper-Moore; Ware follows next. I gave Ware more space but as you can hear, Cooper-Moore and I were right on-time, stopping and starting together. When it was my turn, I just let myself cut loose with my musical ideas. I didn’t hold back, not even for a second. As this piece develops, we move beyond the stop time concept and the playing gets a lot freer. This in turn leads up to Ware’s solo. Ware’s intense playing of his tenor sax at the end, puts an exclamation mark on this song.

“Ashimba,” is a solo piece by Cooper-Moore. He likes to make instruments and he’s very good at that.  Cooper-Moore made the beds and various repairs at 501 Canal Street, thus, making it a much more habitable place to live. I would see Cooper-Moore as I was going to my day job. He would be carrying an armful of wood. He would tell me the wood was for something that he was going to make or repair back at 501 Canal. He is a very gifted musician. His solo provides a taste of how he can sound when playing with one of his many, home-made instruments. Cooper-Moore is always very melodic on these devices.

“Solo,” is a collection of ideas Ware was working on back in the day. Listening to it now, he sounds mellow. I guess that’s how he was feeling on this day. He was very dynamic on the rest of the songs for this album. After re-listening to this track, I think Ware may have wanted to do a different kind of solo. The song he’s playing sounds like a spiritual. Ware did play the spiritual, “Go Down Moses,” when he toured Europe during the seventies (or early eighties). This was when he was working with drummer, Beaver Harris. Ware played a tape of a performance of this song when I visited him. For the most parts, he had played using the high energy approach during some of the songs. He may have wanted to show a different side of his musical personality; by including a more subdued solo on his tenor saxophone. I wonder if this was the last track for this recording. It certainly feels like it.

We did try to record another song earlier. Cooper-Moore did a track using a drum similar to a frame drum. Unfortunately, the technology of the day wasn’t able to fully record the differentiation of the sounds he was making. When we listened to the playback, the drum was only making one sound when in actuality, he was producing a variety of sounds much like Glen Velez does when he plays a frame drum. The engineer just wasn’t able to capture the sounds. Ware was playing with Cooper-Moore but clearly, it wasn’t working. For this reason, this track wasn’t used. Throughout this album, I can feel David’s presence. His music will live on through this recording and many other recordings he did.

Listening to this album is as close as I’ll get to traveling back in time. I’m impressed with the overall quality of our performances. David played extremely well as did Cooper-Moore. I only wish I had thought to record Apogee while we were in Boston. I had the money to make that happen. I just wasn’t thinking. There were these twin African American brothers living in Boston. I’m unable to recall their names.  Both of them played horns, on the local scene. They recorded themselves a lot. It’s too bad, we didn’t think along those lines. There would be four or five albums that we could have done. I hope listeners will check out this CD. For those of you that bought the vinyl release during the seventies, you’ll want to buy this expanded CD package. The sound quality has been greatly enhanced, thanks to the efforts of engineer, Michael Marciano. This CD package is recommended for fans of David S. Ware and all those who love free jazz.

–Marc Edwards, June 13, 2016