Flower After Flower will be somewhat of a surprise if you've only heard Susie Ibarra's storming drumming with the David S. Ware and Matthew Shipp groups. This album, her first heading a larger group, is closer to the more delicate and spacious music of Ibarra's releases (such as Radiance) on her own Hopscotch label. Flower After Flower works best when listened to as a whole since the four short fractals (all solos) act as interludes between the four longer compositions.
The album sets a steady, somewhat restrained mood with the opening cut, "Illuminations," a septet piece including the other two members of her trio, pianist Cooper-Moore (who also plays flute) and violinist Charles Burnham, as well as bassist John Lindberg, the two clarinetists featured in the title track (see below), and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, to whom this composition is dedicated. The first solo interlude then follows, "Fractal 1," a multi-colored drum solo from Ibarra that focuses individually on cymbals, skins, sticks, and their combinations. This leads into "The Ancients," a piece that opens with a slow interaction between clarinetist Chris Speed and bass clarinetist Assif Tsahar. Soon the duo are joined by the brighter sounds of the kulintang (a multi-gong instrument of the Philippines) played by Ibarra and, eventually, the rest of the musicians (except for Pauline Oliveros) join in for a lovely piece of music that has a meditative motion, seemingly without beginning or end.
The title track is framed by two moving solos from Oliveros (on accordion) and Cooper-Moore (on piano), respectively, and opens with a playful, upbeat mood -- Burnham occasionally plucking his violin for a bent-banjo sound and Ibarra galloping along with her brushes -- contrasted sharply with a sparse setting of held-note and small sounds. In all, this first session for the Tzadik label from drummer and leader Susie Ibarra leaves the listener with impressions of patience, clarity, and quietude.