Top 40 Over 40.32: Double Sunrise Over Neptune

There’s an hour left on the first day of 2022 in my time zone. Enough time left to get started on one of my new year’s resolutions: to write shorter posts on this blog, and to write them more often. Here goes.

There are very few times these days when I feel like I’m missing out by not living in New York City. What brings the feeling up the most for me is when I hear about concerts involving the composer and bass player William Parker, who lives up there and has not, to my knowledge, played where I live since I moved to Durham NC in 2013. Parker does have a connection to my town, however: Duke University press published a biography of Parker called Universal Tonality. A friend of mine who works @ DUP snagged me a copy, and I hope to read it soon.

My favorite example of Parker’s Universal Tonality is the album Double Sunrise Over Neptune. The first thing that struck me about it is how different his playing on it is than what I heard and saw the only time I saw him live – which was as a sideman to Cecil Taylor in South Providence in 1989. On that night, Parker’s hands flew all over the fretboard, but on this album he anchors a steady groove. His lines are slow and powerful, like a giant whale that powers through rough waters that toss and turn smaller sea creatures who tag along in his wake. The man is the epitome of musical versatility.

The album, recorded live in 2007 in, yes, NYC – sigh – features an incredible Orchestra of 16 players, including Parker. The two that made the biggest impression on me when I bought this album in the late aughts were the vocalist Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay and the oud player Brahim Frigbane. Her phrasing and melodies reminded me of the great singing traditions of the subcontinent, and Parker’s lyrics reminded me of Metta meditation practice. Frigbane’s playing made me want to get an oud, and I did, several years later. I used it most recently on the new Folk Implosion single. It’s an incredible instrument, and you can hear it here as part of an incredible ensemble.

I’ve since picked up a half dozen of Parker’s other releases on the AUM Fidelity label, and they’re all great – but this one is my favorite. I think there’s something about those anchor bass lines that links my love of hooks to my love of experimentation in a way that few albums do. I can play the whole thing in my head because I’ve listened to it so many times, but I’m gonna go play it again out loud, right now.

And my next post is gonna be shorter, I swear it.

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