Diane Moser — the jazz pianist, composer, educator and leader of the long-running Composers Big Band — has died.
“We lost Diane today,” posted Miki Orr Hatcher on Facebook, Dec. 17. Hatcher had organized a GoFundMe campaign for the Montclair resident, who had suffered from two forms of cancer and other health issues in recent years.
Hatcher described Moser as “a force majeure among us” on the GoFundMe page, and that really sums her up. Moser knew everyone, played everywhere and made things happen on the local scene for decades, and just radiated a kind of stubborn positivity that’s rare to find, anywhere.
Moser said about her 2018 album Birdsongs, “I wanted this recording to have a healing effect on those who listen. Our world is overrun with all kinds of sounds that are not always good for your health, or mental and emotional well-being. I wanted this recording to be a respite from that, so that those who listen can feel relieved from their daily stress and feel refreshed and positive.”
The Composers Big Band, originally formed in 1997 and still active when the pandemic began, was a particularly ambitious project, showcasing works — written by its members, and guest artists — that, in many cases, probably never would have been heard, as the composers conceived them, without it. They performed at Tierney’s Tavern and Trumpets, both in Montclair, as well as other venues.
In 2012, Robert Bush described Moser, in the San Diego Reader, as “a sublime and powerful musician who has the innate ability to draw things out of expert players that you haven’t heard them do before.”
Many of Moser’s friends, students, colleagues and admirers have posted about her on Facebook since the news broke late last night. It’s amazing that one person could have touched so many people, so deeply.
“Diane Moser had eyes of possibility,” wrote Peter Karp. “She was intimidating, yet magnetic. She was smart and strong and made you smarter and stronger when you were around her. When she engaged, it was game on. She’d cut right to the heart of the matter with relentless exuberance, taking you to the deep end of the pool. Still, you felt safe and secure. And hopelessly outmatched.”
“Diane Moser could tease out the best of anyone’s imagination,” wrote Joe Valentine. “She saw through age, experience, trends, and artists’ insecurity. She was constantly offering her mind and creativity to those lucky enough to be around her, as well as opportunities for her fellow artists and students to grow. What a beautiful being. I feel such deep gratitude for all the formative memories I owe to her.”
“To say that she was a close friend doesn’t begin to describe it,” wrote Mike Spengler. “Musically, spiritually and professionally I owe her damn near everything. This hurts beyond words right now.”
Here is some of her music, as well as a video about the Composers Big Band.
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