Following Roy Campbell's Akhenaten Suite and Bill Dixon's 17 Musicians in Search of a Sound: Darfur, bassist William Parker's Double Sunrise Over Neptune is the third release from AUM Fidelity this year to document premiere performances from the 2007 Vision Festival. Heavily influenced by West African, Middle Eastern, and East Asian traditions, this two-part suite is a prime example of Parker's concept of universal tonalitya kaleidoscopic tour-de-force that encapsulates the festival's multicultural aesthetic.
Parker plays a supportive role on double reeds and doson'ngoni, putting aside his bass to lead an all-star 16 piece ensemble that boasts a complete string quartet, a full horn section, two drummers, and assorted instrumentalists.
Difficulties recording the premiere of the long-form suite necessitated a second take the following afternoon. The majority of the album is derived from this session, with the closer, "Neptune's Mirror," culled from the previous evening's live performance. "Morning Mantra" and "Neptune's Mirror" reveal subtle variations on the same theme, while the sweeping epic "Lights of Lake George" is the album's conceptual centerpiece, with "O'Neal's Bridge" a transitory miniature.
Hypnotic bass ostinatos and percolating polyrhythmic vamps drive these extended compositions, as nuanced melodic kernels periodically emerge and subside from the churning miasma. A bevy of stirring soloists contribute pithy statements; Joe Morris's nervy guitar, Brahim Frigbane's plucky oud, Rob Brown's pungent alto, and Jason Kao Hwang's plaintive violin all feature prominently, but it is North Indian singer Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay's otherworldly vocals that dominate the proceedings.
Bandyopadhyay's three-octave range, microtonal intonation, and undulating phrasing lends gravitas to the Universal Consciousness lyrics of "Morning Mantra," while "Lights of Lake George" and "Neptune's Mirror" reveal plangent vocalese derived from devotional hymns.
Parker maintains tonal variety by augmenting serpentine grooves and counter-weaving solos with a series of novel arrangements. As the horns and percussion drift away toward the conclusion of "Morning Mantra," only the strings remain to weave a shimmering mosaic of woolly textures. On the opposite end of the sonic spectrum, the expansive "Lights of Lake George" climaxes with a barrage of staccato horns that explode in a thicket of caterwauling dissonance.
One of Parker's most fully realized large ensemble recordings, Double Sunrise Over Neptune is cosmic groove music with a global flaira seamless merger of Eastern and Western traditions conveyed with passionate conviction.
Personnel: William Parker: double reeds, doson'ngoni, conductor; 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.