William Parker's Double Sunrise Over Neptune
is the third and final commission by Arts For Arts from the 2007 Vision Festival to appear on AUM Fidelity following releases by Roy Campbell and Bill Dixon. Although recorded live, the premiere suffered from technical difficulties in the sound mix, which meant that the musicians reconvened the following afternoon to record the piece a second time. Happily the technical frustrations don't impinge on the enjoyment of a piece that blends Asian and African influences in pursuit of what Parker terms universal tonality.
Helping Parker realize his conception, is a group of sixteen musicians, including his working quartet, and recent double quartet on Alphaville Suite (Rogue Art, 2008), which includes a string section. However it is the addition of Indian vocalist Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, along with oudist Brahim Frigbane, and the double reeds of Bill Cole and Parker, which give this release its distinctive world music flavor.
Assembled from both the live premiere and the next day repeat, the album is book-ended by two lengthy (though differently titled) versions of the same piece. Both interpretations are based on the same premise: an unchanging six note ostinato over which group interaction and a rendition of Parker's lyrics are layered. Comparison of the two versions is instructive with the differences indicative of the influence of Parker's conduction. The first "Morning Mantra" is more compact and wields greater heft with a swirling kaleidoscope of extemporized horn lines, swinging string voicings, squalling double reeds and propulsive drumming, enveloping Bandyopadhyay's microtonal singing. After some 12 minutes the instrumental scrimmage dissipates and the ostinato ceases, to leave a cat's cradle of strings in gently colloquy over Dulberger's rippling pizzicato bass.
By contrast, "Neptune's Mirror" is longer, and as a consequence more open, with greater solo space. Without doubt, underlying the decision to include the concert version is the wonderfully lyrical passage by Rob Brown's alto saxophone, first unfolding like a flower in the morning sun to become something bright and beguiling, before indulging in a quicksilver call and response with Bandyopadhyay's soaring wordless vocalization. Elsewhere a violin adds vocalized commentary to Joe Morris' incisive guitar picking, while later Drake's frame drum and Parker's doson'ngoni come to the fore in a gentle rhythmic throb.
At the center of the album is the 27 minute "Lights of Lake George, " woven from similar cloth, with another bass ostinato, sometimes doubled by oud or guitar, providing the backbone for diverse instrumental combinations, shadowed by sweeping string unisons and drifting horns, with solos emerging between Bandyopadhyay's vocal improvisations on Persian devotional syllables, explicated in the liner notes. "O'Neal's Bridge" is just that, a 30 second shimmering link, before the trance like groove of "Neptune's Mirror" resumes.
If there is a nagging discomfort it is around the unchanging nature of the ostinato patterns. Although after repeated listens they take on the hypnotic quality which is surely intended, you can't help wondering if that feel would have been even more enhanced by some of the ever changing grooves at which Drake and Parker excel in other settings. But nonetheless another satisfying entry to the world music strand of Parker's discography.
Track Listing: Morning Mantra; Lights Of Lake George; O'Neal's Bridge; Neptune's Mirror.
Personnel: Lewis Barnes: trumpet; Rob Brown: alto sax; Bill Cole: double reeds; Sabir Mateen: tenor sax, clarinet; Dave Sewelson: baritone sax; Jason Kao Hwang: violin; Mazz Swift: violin; Jessica Pavone: viola; Shiau-Shu Yu: cello; Joe Morris: guitar, banjo; Brahim Frigbane: oud; Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay: voice; Shayna Dulberger: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums; Hamid Drake: drums; William Parker: double reeds, doson'ngoni, conductor.