Super Bass Wilbur Ware (Wilbur Ware Institute) by George Kanzler Back in 1957 we (college students from New Jersey) favored two jazz clubs in the Village that had memorable bassists. Charles Mingus led his Jazz Workshop at the Half Note and Wilbur Ware (1923- 78) was with Thelonious Monk's Quartet (with John Coltrane) at the Five Spot. Ware's sound was as distinctive and unmistakable as Mingus', maybe even more emphatic. He evinced a booming, sonorous tone from the instrument, which he played with a percussive fervor, plucking out short, fullyformed notes. He could execute double- and triplestops with alacrity, but what impressed most was his big sound and rhythmic drive, plus the sheer narrative melodicism he could bring to what were primarily staccato, single-note line solos. Plagued by addictions and ill health throughout his life, Ware's career was sporadic, his most sustained activity the years he spent in New York from 1956-62, including classic recordings with Monk, Sonny Rollins (live with a trio at the Vanguard) and as house bassist for the Riverside label. This album, Ware's last as a leader, was recorded in 1968 as part of "The Dolphy Series" for Strata East but never released. Produced by Clifford Jordan, who also played tenor sax, it is an ideal showcase for Ware, a bare-bones piano-less quartet date completed by Don Cherry's trumpet and Ed Blackwell's drums. But the main attraction for Ware fans are two long, unaccompanied bass solo tracks, "Symphony for Jr." and "By Myself". Both are fully conceived and realized performances. The former manages to create melodic lines out of walking bass rhythms, enveloping the listener in Ware's rhythmic work. The latter is more playful and exuberant, trills and triple-stops announcing the theme out of the gate, Ware continuing with double-timing, slapping strings on bass body and effortless octave leaps, illustrating the term "tonal virtuosity", ending it all with rhythmic authority. His powerful beat anchors the quartet tracks, often with his bass sharing a lead role as well as solo space. Jordan's "A Real Nice Lady" is a seductive contrafact on "Sophisticated Lady", the gem of the ensemble pieces. For more information, visit wilburwareinstitute.org THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD | November 2012 15.