Call it David Bowie’s death house letter. With its lyrical themes of death and rebirth, Blackstar is the final chapter in Bowie’s flirtation with everything from the occult to gay culture (“Girl Loves Me”) while its liberal references to film and literature demonstrate his life-as-performance-art aesthetic. The mood throughout is dark, beginning with the mournful title track, an epic piece of cinematic art rock that was used as the theme to the BBC-TV crime series The Last Panthers. On this and “Lazarus,” the theme to Bowie’s recent off-Broadway play, Bowie’s vocal hovers ghostlike atop a sonic bed of synth washes, stuttering drumbeats, and honking sax parts. While experimental pop and Krautrock underpin these recordings, Bowie enlisted saxophonist Don McCaslin and drummer Mike Guiliana to perform on “’Tis a Pity She was a Whore” and the re-recording of “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime),” and other jazzers also contributed to the album. Of course, Bowie was no stranger to jazz—such hits as “Changes” and “Young Americans” featured sax breaks—but here it’s more exploratory. It’s difficult to imagine another artist capable of delivering such an intimate, powerful, mature and, yes, painful epitaph as Blackstar, Bowie’s parting gift to his fans.