New Jersey pianist/composer Diane Moser created the music for Music for the Last Flower in 2003, with support from Chamber Music America, but only recorded it in 2012, in one day, no less, this time aided by a grant from New Music USA.
This six-part suite flows effortlessly through a wide arc that begins with sonic caterwaul, lights down on moments of intense lyric beauty, and ends in a hypnotic meditation for peace, with potent features for her all-star cast of free improvising partners including Mark Dresser on bass, Marty Ehrlich on reeds, Ben Williams on trombone, and Gerry Hemingway on drums.
An orgy of violence characterizes the beginning of ..." towards the end of WWII..." with braying horns, throaty bowed bass and piano stabs before a vortex of an ostinato takes over. Hemingway's seizure-like fusillade yields to a wrenching conversation between Moser and Dresser's yearning arco.
"When love is no longer..." features a kind of Native American left hand vamp, lushly harmonized by the piano and bass, and when Ehrlich's clarinet makes it a triothe chocolate simmer of his horn ratchets the timbre-fest into a sumptuous celebration.
Moser's solo piano feature "she finds a flower..." is an intoxicating mélange of touch and dynamics, revealing an appreciation for the magic possibilities of life as seen through the eyes of a survivor. The Latin to swing feel of "love is reborn..." highlights the melodic exchange of Ehrlich's keening alto and Williams' chortling trombone,and the group improvisation that steers the tune towards its conclusion is a dizzying nod to both Dixieland and Charles Mingus.
That rushing ostinato from the first piece returns in the shorter "still not learning the lessons of war..." creating vignette-like warnings and an absolutely brilliant a cappella Dresser solo which leads seamlessly into "a hope for peace..." an elegy of quiet, weary optimism where anguished voices swirl into a prayer for humanity.
This music is powerful, uncompromising, and brilliantly conceived. Squalls of intensity brush into moments of extreme lyric grace and it even swings when it should.
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