DAVID S. WARE STRING ENSEMBLE Threads (Thirsty Ear) Rating: NNN
David S. Ware built his reputation by blowing his brains out through a tenor sax and creating some of the more fearsome free jazz since the late 60s. The idea of the fire-breathing horn player easing back on the throttle and lightening up seems like missing the point. He's pulled back before, but Threads is a clear and obvious attempt to show that there's more to the Ware arsenal than just the heavy artillery. The problem is, he doesn't really have all the goods to pull it off. What made Ware's core unit of bassist William Parker and pianist Matt Shipp so compelling was their telepathic, steamrolling energy. They seemed to play with one brain, finishing each other's phrases and flattening anything in their path. Shipp's now fascinated with synth string sounds, and Ware's focused on his composition, so that tight bond is gone. Some of the arrangements here, particularly those featuring the microtonal sawing of violinist Matt Maneri and Guillermo E. Brown's frantic percussion, are thrilling, but in scaling back, Ware has sacrificed passion for precision. It's a poor trade-off.