William Parker was my gateway into jazz. The first album I heard by him was Long Hidden – The Olmec Series which piqued my interest, particularly the 11-minute Pok-A-Tok at a time when I was beginning to enjoy longer pieces on a regular basis. But Double Sunrise Over Neptune was something else again. Technically, it’s a four track album, but seeing as one of those tracks is less than a minute and is essentially banter, I think we can safely say that this is a three track album, the shortest of which is fifteen minutes long.
The reason I like this so much is because it wasn’t even remotely close to my pre-conceptions of jazz. For a start, Parker keeps repeating the same bassline in each piece. They are amongst the most hypnotic basslines ever, circular, weaving, did someone say Ouroboros (the cosmic serpent, not the various metal-ish acts that have used the name over the years)? They are islands of simplicity amongst the whirling maelstrom of ecstatic expression happening around him.
The secret to enjoying this music, for me, was exactly the same as the secret to enjoying Les Rallizes Denudes, bizarrely enough. Use the bassline to anchor your perceptions and let your attention drift in and out to the various expressions being performed by the other voices and instruments. They are many and rapturous, but there is always the bassline to return to. There are ebbs and flows, crescendos and lulls, but always the bassline. (Has anyone noticed I’ve got a thing about bass?)
From here I was able to understand more and more of the jazz approach to musical expression, although my favourite incarnations have always been the long and hypnotic – I think it’s fair to say that that’s largely true of most genres for me these days.
So, I don’t have a handy way of embedding the album or demonstrating the whole thing apart from the opening – and shortest – track. You’ll have to take my word for it, though, that this is a wonderful example of transcendent music across the entire album.
And, whilst finding the things I’ve linked for this post, I let the embedded tune play to it’s end as I wrote the main body of the text. And you know how Youtube automatically selects a next piece for you if you don’t take an active role? Well, I’d never even heard of Ronnie Boykins, but damn…