Welcome to Tobin Mueller's official website. It contains selections from all his major recordings as well as photos, poetry, digital artwork and personal commentary.
Tobin Mueller is a composer, playwright and interpretive pianist living in Connecticut. His musical compositions range from Impressionist Jazz to Progressive Rock to Classical symphonies and Broadway musicals. In the late 1970s and early 80s, he was one of several composer-pianists who developed what would become known as New Age music, although Tobin's version identifies more closely with Modal/Post-Bop Jazz. A lifelong environmentalist, he was inducted into the United Nations’ 1994
Global 500 Roll of Honor in London for his work with UNEP and the world youth environment movement. A prolific songwriter and arranger, he's been involved in over 30 recordings and has released at least one album every year since 2005. His latest is Standard Deviations, an homage to the great jazz composers of the Twentieth Century (its project page includes numerous Bonus Tracks/alternative takes, check it out), and will be his fifth double album in a row.
In 2017, Tobin released Afterwords, a collection of solo piano and spoken word meditations. "An astonishing work of art," according to reviewer Kathy Parson. The album was featured in JAZZIZ Magazine, Jazz Weekly and Lemon Wire. The track "The Space Between Chaos and Shape" was included on JAZZIZ Magazine's Critics' Choice compilation disc (December 2017 issue). "Brilliant and thoughtful" writes Dodie Miller-Gould (Lemon Wire). "For those just hearing of Mueller for the first time, this piece serves as an insightful introduction to a body of work that is often as intellectually challenging as it is technically proficient."
(See Albums below for more information.)
Tobin comes from a musical family. His grandfather was a violinist for silent films, his mother a Jazz vocalist. He began accompanying her on piano when he was 14. In the 1990s Tobin moved from Wisconsin to
New York City (the West Village) where his Off Broadway career took shape. Later, he would volunteer at Ground
Zero, following the attack on 9/11/2001, and subsequently suffered lung damage. He no longer sings like he once did.
But, as he's said, "this only made me cherish the piano all the more." (See the 2016 article
Chopin and I: Music That Transcends.)
Tobin's works include musical theatre, film scores, ballets, symphonies, video game soundtracks and children's music. He has written lyrics, stage plays, fiction, political essays, poetry, philosophy, domestic humor, video games, music and keyboard reviews. He's sold his photographs to the hotel industry and his digital illustrations as part of his web design work. But he's always thought of himself a composer, first and foremost.
The first half of his career was spent mainly writing musical theatre. In 2005, he released his first solo piano album Morning Whispers and never turned back. However, his association with the stage brings
a sense of storytelling to all of his work. "I imagine theatrical or cinematic scenes playing out during nearly every music composition," he writes.
"I've had the good fortune of working with many fine people throughout my career." Tobin has recorded with Grammy winners Dave Brubeck, Ron Carter,
Michael Hedges, Donny McCaslin (last collaborator with David Bowie) and Paul Nelson (Johnny Winter Band); as well as Woody Mankowski, Ken Schaphorst, Entcho Todorov, Janet Planet and more. He's played with Maynard Ferguson; collaborated with Jon Anderson (from Yes), Brian Welch ("Head" from Korn), Scott Rockenfield (Queensrÿche), Lamar Moore (Lettuce), Mike Nappi (J Geils Band) and countless other musicians from around the globe. As an NYC Dramatist Guild playwright and lyricist, five
of his musical dramas were produced in Manhattan during the 90s, and his 2004 musical
drama, Runners In A Dream, set in the Holocaust, was part of the York Theatre new play
series. Music from his Off Broadway show Creature (1998) found its way onto his award-winning album
Rain Bather (mixed at the legendary Sound City Studio). Songs from
other shows appear in Hard Place To Find,
A Bit Of Light and If I Could Live Long Enough. Tobin continues to collaborate with his long-time playwriting colleague Randyl Appel on new plays, as well as musicians at the Factory Underground Studio on new recordings.
One of the most creative musical minds out there…
I love that Mueller ignores all boundaries for musical genres in his music,
juxtaposing jazz, blues, Broadway, prog rock, New Age, classical stylings...
giving free reign to his vast experience and training along with an imagination
that knows no limitations."
"My happiest music may be my Jazz ensemble recordings," Tobin writes. Some of most successful jazz
collaborations have been with L.A. saxophonist Woody Mankowski. Their 2014 album, Come In Funky, also features
Ron Carter on bass. Eclectic and playful, Come In Funky is a slick twist on funk, incorporating an unusual mix of old-school Big Band Funk and unique acoustic duets. The duo's first collaboration, The Muller's Wheel, included forays into fusion, funk, beebop, swing and contemporary jazz. Woody also plays tenor and soprano sax on some earlier non-jazz releases, including A Bit Of Light, If I Could Live Long Enough and
Song of Myself. He will be the featured saxophonist on Standard Deviations.
Rain Bather, a jazz ensemble recording, won the 2009 Midwest Jazz Album of
the Year award (JazzChicago.net). Tobin's jazz recordings have
been showcased regularly on the syndicated radio show "Expressions of Jazz" as well as dozens of regional FM stations across the country, NPR, I Heart Radio, Deezer, Spotify, CDBaby, etc.
In each of these recordings Tobin Mueller proves his originality, his inquisitiveness as
a musician and a thinker, and his fluid, full throttle energy as a pianist. One continually has the
sense that the piano is Mueller’s alter ego, and when he sits down to play, to arrange, or to improvise,
he is engaging in an exciting dialogue of discovery with his inner self."
As a musical director, Tobin has conducted other people's scores as well, including "Jesus Christ Superstar", and performed in other people's shows, including "Into the Woods". Before moving to Manhattan, he toured CenterStage Theatre Troupe around the world, performing for diverse audiences, including many involved with UNEP, the environmental arm of the United Nations. His song "We Are the Ones" was the theme song for the 1992 UN International Youth Day Celebration held in Washington, D.C., and later became the theme song for C.A.P.E. (Children's Alliance for Protection of the Environment).
His song "Sweet Liberty" was played during the 1986 Statue of Liberty Centennial celebration. The song was later incorporated into his musical "Robin Hood and the Free People of the Forrest" (CenterStage, 1991) as well as the Off Broadway show "Freedom’s First Light" (music and lyrics by Tobin Mueller, book by Ed Medina, 1994). One of his tracks from Come In Funky - "Beam Up the Funk" - was used as an intro piece on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (2014).
As founder of ArtsForge - an online arts community dedicated to cross-genre collaborations (founded in 1998) - Tobin participated in expanding the power of the Internet to communicate across distances. ArtsForge collaborations resulted in many projects, including eBooks and video games. Check out some of these endeavors on Tobin's Writings page.
Mueller was also instrumental in developing the songwriting website MacJams.com which flourished from 2004-2009. He was it’s sole moderator and podcast director, engaged in daily discussions and tutorials about music composition and recording techniques, and created 168 original songs there. At its height, MacJams enjoyed more than 300,000 active members.
Collaborations with musician friends from around the world led to his 2007 progressive folk
album A Bit Of Light, featuring songs he'd written for film. His 2008 progressive rock
concept album, Audiocracy was also an international affair, with players joining in (digitally) from the United Kingdom, Japan, Norway and Canada. For more on this, see Collaborations.
"But the highlights of my current life," Mueller writes, "have more to do with sitting in front of my grand piano
and playing for my wife Suzanne after dinner." As he struggles with A1AD - the genetic lung and immunity disorder
that threatens to shorten his life - private moments at the keyboard become more timeless and transcendent. "My wife inspires and nurtures everything I am able to accomplish." Tobin also has four grown children and three growing grandchildren.
Tobin Mueller is insanely talented and ridiculously prolific. He has made music across a range of instruments and genres. He is particularly interested in creating music in reference to other art forms. What drives him to create so much music?"
Decades ago, he attended Marquette University (1977, the year they won the National Championship) and the University of Wisconsin (including the year they won the NCAA Hockey Championship), studying musical composition, physics and journalism. It appears he may well be a good luck charm, along with everything else.
Tobin is a member of ASCAP and the Dramatists Guild (NYC). For more biographical information, see CDBaby.com and the interviews & articles listed above.
Afterwords - Combining spoken word and
solo piano, Tobin "illustrates" his favorite works of literature with a wide variety of new
musical compositions. He pays homage to classic authors like Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut,
Faulkner, as well as new authors Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, Aimee Bender and China Miéville. Musical influences include Oscar Peterson, Hiromi, Brad Maldheu, Fred Hersch, John Taylor, even Keith Emerson. "An astonishing work of art."
Of Two Minds: The Music of Frédéric Chopin and Tobin Mueller the final addition
to Mueller's "The Masters Trilogy" in which he explores the interconnections between classical and jazz genres. Mueller reinterprets Chopin's most iconic piano solos (Disc 1)
and uses Chopin's preludes to inspire three original jazz piano sonatas (Disc 2). Seductive, rebellious, heroic,
lovely, Mueller embraces Romanticism at its core, making it distinctly personal and deeply poetic. Fanfare Magazine's
2016 Editor's Choice Award.
Flow: The Music of J.S. Bach and Tobin Mueller is a double
album featuring Mueller's reinterpretations of Bach's greatest hits (Disc 1) plus two original jazz piano suites by
Mueller (Disc 2). Inventive, playful, full of emotion and intelligence, one part homage, one part internal romance.
New Age, Neo-Classical, Modal Jazz and Baroque all combined in seamless synergy. 16-page booklet included with 2-disc
CD set. See the project page for details. Achieved Fanfare Magazine's 2015 Editor's Choice Award. Flow is second album of "The Masterworks Trilogy".
Impressions of Water & Light - an
exploration of Impressionist piano music, including Debussy, Ravel, Fauré and Satie. Using the written
notes as if they are light and his imagination as if it is water, Tobin creates all new intrerpretations
exploring the inherent intimacy between jazz and Impressionist music. You will never hear these works the
same again. The CD package itself is a work of art, includes beautiful Impressionist paintings to illustrate
each piece. Impressions if first album of "The Masterworks Trilogy".
Midwinter Born - a
collection of jazz piano reinterpretations of 18 traditional Christmas carols, Mueller captures the
quiet simplicity, expectant playfulness and over-riding joy of the season. It is perhaps his most accessible solo piano album. The wonder of Christmas unfolds as he takes you on a yuletide
journey through his musical imagination. A progressive rock synth-driven medley completes the album with a surprise Bonus Track. For details, see Midwinter
Born Liner Notes.
Morning Whispers - New
age / Neo-classical solo piano combining lyrical impressionism, healing emotions and
contemporary jazz influences. A song cycle of tragic beauty. Almost every track is
elagant, giving, combining joy and melancholy,a breath of morning. Influences include
Frederic Chopin, Claude Debussey, Aaron Copland, Keith Jarret, Chic Corea, Bill Evans, David Lanz, Liz Story.
13 Masks - An interweaving
of jazz, avant-garde classical and "Progressive Ragtime." Blending each style through the
chaos of the subconscious, the composer wanted to create compelling, surprising musical stories. Indeed, he has! Influences
include Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Art Tatum, Scott Joplin, John Medeski, as well as classical composers Shostakovich, Ligeti, Bartok. These pieces will startle and delight. Also, check out the thirteen Medieval masks that served as inspiration to each track.
With Tobin Mueller’s jazz piano excursions, what first strikes the listener is not only Mueller’s skill as a pianist, but his comprehensive grasp of form and structure; for only with such a complete understanding as his foundation, can Mueller dare to embark on his own “takes” on these classics. In addition, his original piano compositions are imbued with a transcendent feeling for the connections between nature and music and the cyclical energy of the human experience... Genius."
- Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold, Fanfare Magazine
Jazz / Big Band / Funk
Standard Deviations - Jazz/Blues - Keyboardist Tobin Mueller is joined by Grammy-winner Paul Nelson (guitars), Woody Mankowski (saxophones), Lamar Moore & Mike Nappi (percussionists) to breathe new life into 33 standards in this fresh Two Volume CD. An homage to Monk, Ellington, Gershwin, Brubeck, Hoagy Carmichael, Lennon-McCartney and more. "The greatest collection of reimagined standards in the last decade."
Come In Funky - Jazz/Funk - Old School Funk and and small
combo featuring Jazz Hall of Fame bassist Ron Carter. This eclectic blend of Jazz and Funk is the second
collaboration between keyboardist Tobin Mueller and saxophonist Woody Mankowski. Half of these tunes will
transport you back in time to when most everything (music, clothes, language) owed its hipness to the Funk
wing of 1970s jazz. The other half resonates with unique intimacy, playfulness and humor. A delight.
For more info, see: Come In Funky Project page. 2014.
Müller's Wheel - small combo jazz - Remastered
and now on CD, formerly titled "The Muller's Wheel," this jazz ensemble recording takes you on a joyous
history of instrumental jazz from bop to fusion, swing to funk. The happiest, hippest hour of music you'll ever hear, featuring
Tobin Mueller on piano & organ, Woody Mankowski on saxes. All original tunes that pay homage to jazz greats that came before. Released 2010; remixed and
reissued 2012. For more info, see: The Muller's Wheel Project page.
Rain Bather - big band jazz - tour de force by an all-star ensemble. Winner of "Album of the Year" for 2009 at JazzChicago.net. B3 organ, piano, saxes, flugelhorn, trumpet, flute, clarinet, acoustic bass and drums. "One
of the freshest and most sheerly entertaining, intriguing and exciting recordings I've come across. Rain
Bather is the product of its composer's kaleidoscopic mind. A true panorama of pulsing big band horns,
wacky organs, fiddles, flutes, clarinets and beats, that succeeds by accurately capturing the sound of
someone smiling." - Brad Walseth
Afterwords: Solo Piano Bonus Tracks - For those of you who prefer music without any interruptions, seven of the best tracks from Afterwords have been remastered with the talking edited out. Originally conceived for distribution to jazz radio stations, this Bonus Album is now avaiilable to the egeneral public. Influences include Oscar Peterson, Hiromi, Brad Maldheu, Fred Hersch, John Taylor; post-bop, stride, new age, classic jazz.
You guys can play! A stellar set of recordings that, I believe, adds seriously to the body of
jazz that this represents. Ron Carter’s bass drives. Tobin Mueller’s own work on the organ fascinates.
Woody Mankowski is on fire from track to track. Remarkable work in every single way I can think of,
played with a spirit of invention and joy from the first notes to the last. A delightful experience
to hear such excellent compositions played so beautifully in this most-lively of styles."
- Paul Page
Rock: Prog Rock / Folk Fusion / Pop
Audiocracy - progressive rock - A post-political neo-prog concept
album. Tobin Mueller: vocals, keyboards, B3; Twøn: lead vocals, bass;
Darren Chapman, Bob Piper, Tadashi Togawa: guitars; Rob Thurman: drums."A symphonic whirlwind of passion and sensations. With their tight, gorgeous arrangements,
the songs used every hertz of my sound system. The album flows from idea to idea like birds winging from
tree to tree. I predict you will return to this album time and time again, gaining new insight, just like
I did." - Progressive Magazine
A Bit of Light - contemporary folk fusion - featuring Mueller on vocals and fabulous backing players. Styles range from tango to jazz fusion, yet always seem to gravitate to contemporary
folk rock. These inventive arrangements paint an entertaining yet honest, intimate portrait
of the artist. Featuring: Tony nominee Entcho Todorov-violin; Grammy winner Donny McCaslin & Woody Mankowski-saxes; more.
"The songs on A Bit of
Light run an emotional gamut, telling of life's joys and sorrows, deep love and the end of
love. Recommended!" - Kathy Parsons
If I Could Live Long Enough - Previously unreleased
outtakes from earlier projects, including the 1998 Rain Bather sessions, the 2004-2006 collaborations
that contributed to A Bit Of Light. and songs from Mueller's musicals
(Creature and Runners In A Dream.)
Featuring acoustic guitar by Grammy winner Michael Hedges, vocals by Woody Mankowski and Emily Rohm,
and some of Mueller's best songwriting. The album page includes 6 Bonus Tracks not available on any other website!
September 11 Project: Ten Years Later - Music
written following 9/11/2001. "I was asked to participate in the 10th anniversary at Ground Zero
ceremony and revisted these songs," Mueller writes. "I decided to put them out as an album instead
of keep them to myself. Since I can no longer sing, after contracting a lung disorder, hearing this
music has several layers of poignancy." Recorded in the months following the tragedy. Also see the 9/11 Project page for notes, photos and Mueller's eye-witness
Vocal and string vibrations of a man in and out of time, by an artist who knows how to coax from his instrument a wide range of emotions. As thoughts and feelings about his own human condition move beyond the boundaries of words, Tobin finds supernal expression in his piano. There is frailty (due to his respiratory problems) admixed with openness, honesty and self awareness. What more can I say? Congratulations on this commingling of words and piano, an appealing tapestry of interwoven introspection and extrospection. Bravo!"
- Richard Schletty
Voice and Piano: The American Songbook
Song Of Myself - voice/piano - Tobin's favorite songs from the American Songbook,
reinterpretted. Intimate, heartfelt, evocative arrangements sung with
the vocal burden of a devistating lung disorder, adding to their poignancy. Ballads,
blues, showtunes, folk rock, jazz - songs Mueller has sung
for decades at his home piano now shared with everyone. Includes songs by Jamez Taylor,
Lennon/McCartney, Stephen Sondheim, Joni Mitchell, more. Complete lyrics, song notes
and mp3 links on Tobin's Song of Myself project page.
Hard Place To Find - voice/piano - Tobin's
favorite songs from the American Songbook, Volume Two. Including: "Still Crazy" (Paul Simon), "Bob Dylan's Dream" and
"Shelter from the Storm" (Dylan), "Paradise" (Richie Havens), "Don Quixote" (Gorgon Lightfoot), "Dulcinea" (from Man of
la Mancha), and "Alfie"
(Bacharach). Many more, plus an original song by Tobin Mueller, "Let Yourself." All songs have to
do with journeying, questing, searching. For lyrics, song notes and mp3 links, see
Hard Place To Find project page.
As Simple As Soap - Del lends his deep voice and unique
personality to Tobin's award-winning poetry. Love, fatherhood, history, music, death, and daily meanings
are all touch on in this combination of poetry and short story offerings. Each spoken word selection is
accompanied by Mueller's visually stimulating background music that both illustrates and adds emotional
depth. Just the force and color of Del's voice would earn this collection a high recommendation, but the
synergy of elegant insights and breathtaking music make this a truly fascinating addition to Tobin
Mueller's collected works.
Afterwords - Combining spoken word and
solo piano, Tobin "illustrates" his favorite works of literature with a wide variety of new
musical compositions. He pays homage to classic authors like Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut,
Faulkner, as well as new authors Dave Eggars, Chuck Palahniuk, Aimee Bender and China Miéville. Mueller mines every style and genre of music he has experienced in
his long and varied career. Taken one at a time, each track is a meditation, guided by inspiring quotations recited by Mueller, expanded by the music they inspire. Taken as a whole, the album becomes a personal memoir of Mueller's life journey.
Find the Cost, surreal drama performed by the Samuel Pickard Theater.
Although I have loved performing as a solo artist, I highly value the energy and inspiration
collaboration lends. I'm always looking for inventive projects to join.
My most recent collaboration is Standard Deviations. Each track was arranged and initially recorded by me, alone on the piano. While the drummers and/or lead instrumentalist added their their thoughts and performances, the arrangements were adjusted, sometimes dramatically. I've included alternative takes on the album's project page to help illustrate the impact of some of these collaborators. After putting down the acoustic piano part, I sometimes added B3 organ, synths, vintage electric pianos, Trilogy bass, and even percussion programming. The interplay between myself and the other musicians completely transformed a few of my original concepts...
Paul Nelson - electric guitar
Woody Mankowski - saxophones
Mike Nappi - drums
Lamar A. Moore - drums, hand percussion
Pay Wayland - guitar
Kenny Cash - bass, producer
My collaboration with Ron Carter resulted in the unique Jazz-Funk album Come In Funky. The recordings we made together form duet interludes between more old-school Big Band funk arrangements. They represent fleeting moments of improvisation.
All of my stage plays involved collaborations. Writing musical theatre has honed my
collaborative instincts. Directors, producers, design people, actors and co-writers all get
in the act. It's a whirlwind of creativity. Unlike film, in theatre the author provides the
central vision... one of the reasons I love it.
My collaboration with friend and jazz saxophonist Woody Mankowski resulted in The
Muller's Wheel, 14 tracks that illustrate the evolution of jazz. We wanted to write our own happy history of
jazz, from swing to bop to funk, and this was the result. It is definitely my most upbeat album. Adding legendary bassist Ron Carter to the mix in our 2014 collaboration, Come In Funky, was pure joy. These two happy recordings are great additons to my jazz catalog that began with Rain Bather.
B3 organ, keys: Tobin Mueller
Piano: Chris Mueller (Tobin's nephew), Doug Schneider
Saxes: Woody Mankowksi, Tom Washatka, Doug Schneider, Sal Giorgianni
Trumpets - Bob Levy, Carl Fischer
Flugelhorn - Ken Schaphorst
Flute - Sal Giorgianni
Clarinet - Bill Barner
Acoustic bass: Jeff Cox
Electric bass: Butch Taylor
Electric guitars: Richie Hart, McBoy
Drums/percussion: Dane Richeson
A decade ago, I formed a progressive rock band with guys spread all around the globe.
We called it "Audiocracy", a play on words indicating both the reign of music and the post-political
nature of the band's lyrics. Progressive rock is a combination of rock inventions, classical
virtuosity and jazz freedoms; so much fun to play. My son, Twøn, sang lead, making
the group inter-generational as well as cross-continental. Please check out our album page and see the list of fabulous musicians behind the project: Audiocracy: Revolution's Son.
My 2007 progressive folk fusion recording A Bit Of Light and 2016 retrospective jazz-pop release If I Could Live Long Enough both feature wonderful contributions
from very talented musicians. On many of these tracks, their solos resulted in
significant collaborative additions, most noteably Donny McCaslin (who collaborated with David Bowie on his final album) on "Icarus" and "Crazy Stories", and the great late acoustic guitarist Michael Hedges on "Before There Were Gods." Other players that need mentioning:
Entcho Todorov - violin
Bill Barner - clarinet & tenor sax
John Luper - guitar
Thor Oliverson - bass & guitar
John Selva - bass
Martyn Kember-Smith - fiddle
The entire spirit behind Artsforge.com (the website I founded) was collaboration. When Artsforge was
in its heyday, we created dozens of recordings, a space opera video game, several collaborative short stories, and began two eBooks. The timing of the eBooks
was slightly ahead of its time and the gaming world changed so fast it was difficult to remain up to date with video game code and hardware. As I became more involved with my own projects, the collaborative writing aspect of the site skidded sideways. ArtsForge is now "merely" a `place to view interesting art, listen to music and dream of what might have been.
Collaborations on digital art remained strong for many years. Most of us worked as beta testers for Bryce and other early 3D modeling software. Many of these artist are still creating cutting edge digital art. Please see Illustrations to read more about this aspect of ArtsForge. I learned enough about digitial illustrations to be able to design several of my subsequent album covers. The Illustrations page has examples of eBook illustrations, stand-alone collaborative art, video game illustrations, album covers and fractals.
Music, however, was always my main focus. In 2004, I discovered a music site that took my attention away from ArtsForge... MacJams. While tooling around the net to find a good how-to site regarding new music recording software,
I stumbled upon MacJams.com. I immediately saw its potential as a collaborative songwriting site. I contacted the admins and they agreed to
emphasize songwriting skills as well as recording tips...and made me their sole moderator. I helped spawned tons of
great artist-to-artist collaborative projects there. It became a wonderful musicians' community. I spent 10 years encouraging and critiquing musicians, posting over 20,000 tips, observations and insights. It was a wonderful outlet to share the things I'd learned over my career.
One of the highlights of my career was working with the United Nations and environmental
NGOs during the late 80s and early 90s. In addition to writing environmental plays for youths
that toured the world, I help plan international events that empowered youths in the worldwide
environmental movement. I wrote the tune that was adopted as the UNEP Youth theme
song: We Are The Ones.