Diane Moser & Mark Dresser, Duetto, CIMP 387, 2012.
- Hello (Moser)
- Para Waltz (Dresser)
- If You’ll Call Me, Then I’ll Call You (Moser)
- Yeller Grace (Dresser)
- For My Mother (Moser)
- Big Mama (Dresser)
- Mattress on a Stick (Dresser)
- Star Melodics (Dresser)
- Diane Moser — piano
- Mark Dresser — bass
It was an auspicious day for recording, everything fell into place, everything was wonderful, the weather was unbelievable — the birds and the cicadas were singing right on cue.
On this date, I was recording with Mark Dresser, one of my oldest and dearest friends. I had just returned from five weeks of a most incredible residency at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, during which I composed two of the compositions presented here. I was recording with the masterful and pioneering Bob and Marc Rusch, in the Central Presbyterian Church of Montclair, New Jersey, a space that is sacred and beautiful and has amazing acoustics, and where I have been the composer in residence for the past 12 years. The church has a piano that I love to play, I had a friend visiting, it was my birthday, and there was delicious home-made cake! It was an auspicious day to make music.
Playing duets with Mark is like being part of a beautifully woven tapestry.
Each phrase is a thread that weaves its way in and out of the other phrases in perfect contrapuntal harmony, rhythm and melodic lines. Mark is the epitome and the best of what one would expect from a bass player, he plays the music according to what the music needs regardIess of the “typical” bass player role.
On each of these tracks we give each other space to explore, accompany, support and anticipate each other’s ideas. Sometimes we are playful ond soulful, and at times we “do battle” and it all ends up in a beautiful and sensuous pas de deux. It’s what I imagine Bill Evans must have felt while playing with Scott LaFaro.
As I mentioned, two of these compositions came to life at the MacDowell Colony. I spent five weeks in a studio in the woods with a grand piano, transcribing bird songs, improvising with and recording them every day. Hello, which I originally titled “Me and the Chickadees” comes from a transcription of a free improvisation with a chickadee and the other birds in the neighborhood. If You Call Me, Then I’ll Call You, comes from transcribing the robins’ song, and listening to their interplay — it seemed that they were calling each other for one reason or another. For My Mother was composed in 1998 on the occasion of my mother’s passing and for her memorial service. I used a very old compositional technique of applying the letters of her name to the letters of the musical alphabet, and then finding harmonies that would support the melodic line. The composition has evolved over time through improvisations and performances with Mark and vocalist Lisa Sokolov, my quintet, and an arrangement for my big band.
Working on and playing Mark’s music is always filled with wonderful challenges.
First, there are the rhythmic and harmonic challenges, as well as time. But there is also the challenge of bringing in the sonic ideas while maintaining the structure of the composition. I always come away inspired and feeling that my creative energies just got an extra boost of some major musical vitamins. I am especially honored by the composition that he wrote for me, Big Mama Heart. Here we get to “play” like a couple of children in the school yard out on recess — what fun !
My many thanks to Bob Rusch for putting this date together, and coming to Montclair. It was an honor to work with him and Marc Rusch, and it was an incredibly moving experience. I deeply admire Bob and his family for their commitment to the music and to their service to the community at large.
I also want to thank the Central Presbyterian Church of Montclair and especially Minister of Music, Dr. Gaylord French for letting us use this beautiful space, and for supporting me and my musical adventures all of these years. And of course to my friend and amazing piano technician, Bob Dowling, for making that piano sing.
I recall first being moved by Diane Moser back in ’78 when we ended up on a gig together in Ocean Beach, with saxophonist Joe Marillo. The way she’d rock the house with her soulful embodied playing was so impressive — her whole being channeled into that ol’ Fender Rhodes. We played many gigs in that period including those with the great, late alto sax player, Curtis Pegler, singer Popeye Maupin, Soul singer, Ella Ruth Piggee, as well as San Diego based heavies including the renowned Charles McPherson. It was on a CETA gig in ’79 (the equivalent of the WPA for musicians) that Diane and I played as often as three times a day for nine months. During that period, she gave birth to her son, Chad, whom she raised by herself. After a year or so she moved to New York City.
We’ve been the tightest of friends ever since. Over the years she’s been the person to whom I’d test out snippets of new compositions over the phone, getting feedback about this and that. She’s someone whose musical instincts I implicitly trust. During my eighteen years in New York I wanted to bring her on the road, but single motherhood clearly was not conducive to touring. So we’ve played various kinds of local gigs, most memorably in the context of her trio with the great drummers Andrew Cyrille or Gerry Hemingway. Since I moved back to San Diego in 2004, Diane has been the person that I’ve communicated with the most, with quasi daily conversations.
It was clear to me that Diane was under-recorded and only a hard-core label like CIMP — one that doesn’t care about commercial considerations before music — would be game for such a venture. I called Bob Rusch who in his friendly but surly way made me send tape after tape of Diane. Finally we convinced him to record a trio with Gerry Hemingway. It was also fortuitous that Diane had received a fellowship at the MacDowell Colony iust six weeks prior to this recording and was able to devote this time, free from piano teaching and big band leading, to solely compose and play. I forgot to mention, for over a decade Diane has led her Composers Big Band, bringing in first-class free-lancers from the greater New York and New Jersey areas to play original music composed by the members and featured guest artists, including notables Oliver Lake, Rufus Reid, Anita Brown, Jim McNeely, and many others.
I was returning from a tour of Europe and was able to coordinate dates with everyone, but in the final days, Gerry had double-booked and we couldn’t reschedule. So Diane and I chose to record duo which was serendipitously fitting. I had intended to compose more music specifically for the date, which just so happened to fall on Diane’s 52nd birthday. But in the end, I only came up with a fragment called Big Mama Heart, dedicated to her. It iust so hoppened that the last time I recorded for CIMP was also a duo recording (with Ray Anderson, Nine Songs Together – CIMP 295) and also coincided with a 52nd birthday: mine.
About Diane’s playing — she can communicate a vibe. There’s a spiritual dimension in her music and persona that transcends styles, yet she is clearly centered deeply in the Jazz tradition. In person and in music you feel her. She’s a connector, one of those people that brings people together. You will hear this. I couldn’t be more happy that this CD is finally being released.