Friday, September 12th, 2008 ... 3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. ... KZSU, 90.1 FM

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William Parker has done plenty of large-group work, but Double Sunrise over Neptune seems particularly ambitious, consisting of glorious long jams with an exciting, patient pulse and a spiritual mood driven by the vocals of Indian classical singer Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay. It's an amazing work.

"Morning Mantra" and "Neptune's Mirror" are separate readings of the same movement, a piece that ebbs and flows in subtle waves, anchored by a six-note mantra of a bass riff that persists until the final minutes. Parker, conducting, cues soloists and background improvisers from the 16-piece band to create textures that fade in and out of focus, with horns coloring the sound here; violin/viola or guitar taking over elsewhere. Some of these snippets sound composed, or maybe Parker conducted them into being on the spot. The two versions differ substantially in mood although they seem to draw from the same strategic map; for instance, both end with some sublime improvising after the bassline stops.

Bandyopadhyay's voice becomes the center of attention on both tracks, as she either serenely improvises or sings the lyrics penned by Parker: "We are all facing the wind; may we be filled with light..." Her singing, in the long, lilting syllables of classical Indian styles, is the centerpiece, and it defines and grounds the mood and method of the piece.

It's a jam with a spiritual feel, with Parker artfully coaxing and sculpting the sound. His own instrumental contributions come not on bass, but on some exotic horns and the eight-stringed doson'ngoni.

Those pieces bracket a longer movement, "Lights of Lake George," that continues the mantra feel with a different central rhythm and riff. Here, Bandyopadhyay contributes the Surya Pranam mantra, "which glorifies the rising sun and pays homage to the Sun as God," or so say her liner notes. She also sings a tarana, an improvisation based on Persian devotional symbols. It's a clear and passionate work, with the added treat of some composed group lines that add ragged edges around the mantra bassline and serve as the kicking-off point for some crazed, stabbing improvising late in the piece.

Together, the pieces form a nearly continuous suite, although I don't know if it's intended that way; technical difficulties during the original live recording had the band reconvening the next day, and I'm not sure which pieces came from which performance. Stuck between the pages is a 37-second snippet of "O'Neal's Bridge," which sounds like it's got roots in Parker's more traditional jazz side.

Parker is a giant of modern jazz, and he's outdone himself with Neptune. If it's truly all part of one gigantic suite, then I'd love to see it all live someday. Now if someone would only finance a tour for this group, or for the Little Huey Orchestra for that matter...

Elsewhere in the week:

  • Cuong Vu is still at it
  • David Leikam declares DIY attack
  • Peter Evans is pretty cool
  • Sarcastic British improv on Leo
  • Jason Ajemian takes the lead
  • Fire Museum strikes: Pulga and Wondrous Horse

    Horizontal lines denote microphone breaks.

    * Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog -- "Todo El Mundo Es Kitsch" -- Party Intellectuals (Pi Recordings, 2008)

    * Bloom Project -- "Shattered Eventide" -- Prismatic Season (Edgetone, 2008)

    * New York Art Quartet -- "Untitled" -- New York Art Quartet (ESP-Disk, 2008; orig. released 1964)

    * Peter Evans Quartet -- "!!!!" -- Peter Evans Quartet (Firehouse 12, 2008)

    * Pulga -- "Return to the Forest of Shoes" -- Pulga Loves You (Fire Museum, 2007) * Jason Ajemian -- "U're the Guy" -- The Art of Dying (Delmark, 2008)

    * David Leikam Trio and Quartet -- [Trio: Untitled track 3] -- Live (self-released, 2008)

    * Bob and Ellen Weller -- "Collusion" -- Point of Contact (Circumvention, 2007)

    -- 4:00 p.m. --

    * William Parker -- "Neptune's Mirror" -- Double Sunrise over Neptune (AUM Fidelity, 2008)

    Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay -- "Mero Mana Rama Hi Rama Rater" -- Shruti (Dunya, 2002) * Jeff Gauthier Goatette -- "Friends of the Animals" -- House of Return (Cryptogramophone, 2008)

    * Cuong Vu -- "Accelerated Thoughts" -- Vu-tet (ArtistShare, 2008)

    Joseph Jarman -- "Adam's Rib" -- Song for (Delmark, 1991)

    -- 5:00 p.m. --

    * Joel Harrison -- "American Farewell" -- The Wheel (Innova, 2008)

    Tom Heasley -- "29 Palms" [excerpt] -- Desert Triptych (Farfield, 2005)

    William Roper, Francis Wong, Elliot Kavee -- "King Casper Meditates On the Coming Journey" -- (Asian Improv, 1998) * Tim Trevor-Briscoe and Nicola Guazzaloca -- "First Gibbering Story" -- One Hot Afternoon (Leo Records, 2007) * Wondrous Horse -- "Pompeii & Hercolaneum" -- Cavallo Meraviglioso (Fire Museum, 2008)
    * Steve Lacy -- "Forest" -- The Forest and the Zoo (ESP-Disk, 2008; orig. released 1966) Rent Romus' Lords of Outland -- "Do-Gooders Can Run but They Can't Hide" -- You Can Sleep When You're Dead (Edgetone, 2007)
    * Valerie Smith and Becky Buller -- "The River" -- Here's a Little Song (Bell Buckle, 2008)

    * = Item in KZSU rotation
    ! = Pop anomaly
    ? = Item not in KZSU library

    -- Go back to Memory Select playlists.
    -- Bay Area free/improv music calendar: