Apogee was saxophonist David S. Ware’s first band where he was the “leader”. It can be hard to pin down one member as the leader of a free jazz ensemble, but Ware is identified as the leader for Birth of a Being since it helped launch his career as a frontman/band leader. Ware and pianist Cooper-Moore met one another in the throes of an east coast education in the ’60s. The more the two played together and got to know one another, the greater their desire to play “freely” became. Enter drummer Marc Edwards who was already expressing some interest in playing borderless jazz and a very bold trio named Apogee was born. Their jam sessions were intense and their gigs, including opening for Sonny Rollins at the Village Vanguard, were well-received. The racket came to a halt when all three members became busy with other musical engagements. By the mid-’70s, Ware became keen on documenting the sound of Apogee on record. Two days in a New York recording studio brought about Birth of a Being, Apogee’s one and only album. After being released on the Swiss label hat Hut, the album quietly fell out of print as Ware’s career hit the gas. Ware may be gone now (but not before playing with Cooper-Moore a few more times) but Birth of a Being has received an attractice reissue on AUM Fidelity with a bonus CD that doubles the amount of music.
Free jazz is a difficult thing to discuss since it’s all about the wordless expressions one achieves through the chemistry one establishes with other musicians. Sadly, David S. Ware is no longer with us to give us his take on these 1977 sessions. It is worth noting, however, that Apogee had gone through a two-year hiatus before recording Birth of a Being. Normally bands need to constantly playing with one another in order to keep their music sharp. If they take a break, they risk turning rusty. Ware, Edwards, and Cooper-Moore on the other hand, were still able to make a furiously joyful noise together after not seeing each other for two years. We may never know if they were better before the 1975 split or if Ware and Edwards’s time in the Cecil Taylor Unit with Jimmy Lyons and Raphe Malik further freed up their already freewheeling tendencies. Taking Birth of a Being at face value though, neither scenario is of any concern. The beginning of “Prayer”, the first track on both CDs, sounds like it was actually arranged!
Birth of a Being is initially made up of four very long pieces: “Prayer”, “Thematic Womb”, “A Primary Piece No. 1”, and “A Primary Piece No. 2”, totaling 53 minutes. At 52 minutes, the extra CD has an alternate take of “Prayer” followed by four selections that did not make it to the album. “Ashimba” is a two-minute solo rendition of “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” performed by Cooper-Moore on an 11-tone xylophone, an instrument developed by Ware himself. The disc ends with a solo performance from Ware himself lasting close to seven minutes (unimaginatively titled “Solo”). “Cry” and “Stop Time” add an extra half-hour of telepathic jazz from the trio that had to stop just as they were starting.
It’s better to have only this bulging drop of Apogee’s power than none at all. It represents a pivotal point in David S. Ware’s career and shifts the spotlight to the power of inter-band dynamics. And now that we’ve resurrected one long-lost recording from Ware’s career, I can’t help but wonder what else we have to look forward to.