A Gift of Life and Music

Musician David S. Ware, of Scotch Plains, recovered from a kidney transplant...with a little help from his fans.

Photo by John Rogers.
David Ware performing on tenor sax in October at the Abrons Arts Center in New York.
Photo by John Rogers.

These days, it’s routine for musicians to e-mail fans for support. David S. Ware, 60, a tenor saxophonist from Scotch Plains, got more than support. He got a new kidney.

Ware—who apprenticed with Sonny Rollins in the 1960s and went on to cut more than a dozen records with his David S. Ware Quartet—began developing kidney trouble in 1998; by the end of 2008, his survival had become dependent on finding a donor. After Ware’s longtime producer, Steven Joerg, sent an urgent e-mail to 950 fans around the world, a Florida woman, Laura Mehr, stepped forward early in 2009 to offer her kidney. By May, Ware was recovering after a successful transplant at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.

The way Ware sees it, this gift of life came not just from his donor but from music itself: Mehr’s husband, who died in 2007, had been a fan and acquaintance of Ware’s. Laura Mehr did not know Ware, but she knew his music through her husband.

“If it wasn’t for my music, I wouldn’t have had a donor,” says Ware. Having regained his health, Ware, a graduate of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, is planning to release an experimental jazz album this spring. “It’s a very dense style, with me on three saxophones,” he says. “It’s a sound I really wanted to pursue.”

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