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Fanfare Magazine Review
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Fanfare Magazine review by Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold, copyright © 2014 by Fanfare, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
To read the Fanfare Magazine 2014 interview of Tobin Mueller, go here.

Midwinter Born Impressions Rainbather
3 CDs reviewed: Midwinter BornImpressions of Water and LightRain Bather

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TOBIN MUELLER: THREE CDs REVIEWED

These three discs offer insight into the inventive, mercurial world of jazz pianist and composer Tobin Mueller. In Midwinter Born and Impressions of Water and Light, Mueller takes familiar melodies and reworks them as themes and variations, or as completely improvised and/or rethought compositions, whereas in Rain Bather, the compositions are all original and the experimentation comes through the interplay of the ensemble. In all cases, the discs demonstrate Mueller’s fertile musical imagination and his enormous lyrical and rhythmic facility as a pianist.

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Midwinter Born: Midwinter Born introduces fresh takes on 18 familiar Christmas tunes. Mueller probes the traditional melodies for hidden harmonies, chromatic variants, and fanciful improvisations. In each case his departures from the original have poetic and musical logic, and they deepen and expand the universe of the melody. The colors he is able to coax from the keys are rich and evocative, and the tempos he explores add variety and vigor to the music. Of particular interest are Hark the Herald Angels Sing, gracefully and elegantly set in a New Age jazz milieu; Carol of the Bells, where his piano captures both the sonority and the tinkling of the bells as well as the spiraling flight of the swallows; Veni, Veni Immanuel, which replaces the chant of the original with a driving romp; and the exquisite simplicity of O Tannenbaum, where the theme ebbs, flows, and breaks up with the rustle of the wind in the trees.

Mueller plays with a clean, sometimes deliberate articulation, and one is often aware of the dialogue between his two hands - a feeling that adds an unexpected energy and tension to the arrangements. The sound is very present and live. Accessing the link to Mueller’s web site brings up a very complete musical analyses of each song.

Impressions of Water and Light:
Features the music of DEBUSSY, RAVEL, SATIE, FAURE, IBERT

Impressions of Water and Light is Mueller’s discourse with the great Impressionist composers, among them his early favorites Ravel and Debussy. Some of the tracks are variations on, or new tonal arrangements of, the original melodies; others are new songs that merely quote the source as a departure point for exploration. Once again, in every case, the listener has the sense that Mueller is having his personal conversation as a composer and pianist with these great 19th- and 20th-century composers.

A good example of this is in Dance for a Princess Gone, which uses Ravel’s Pavane pour une enfante défunte as its inspiration. Mueller sees the melody as a “lullaby of care and loss,” and he alters the chords in a New Age jazz manner to create an aching melancholy. Other highlights include River God at Play, based on Ravel’s Jeux d’eau, in which Mueller delivers the tinkling water in the treble and the resonant deep in the bass; his virtuoso arrangement of John Alden Carpenter’s Tango Américaine, in which Mueller takes the tempo slower and plays with a light staccato touch, adding showy notes and runs; and Sitting with Satie, in which Mueller takes inspiration from Bill Evans’s 1963 Conversations with Myself and reimagines a medley of Satie, Debussy, and Mueller’s own tunes.

Again the sound is very live and sensitive to the nuances of the piano. The printed booklet is a lovely addition to the experience. In it Mueller pairs a late 19th-century or early 20th-century painting with each of the tracks and adds his own liner notes analyzing the musical and poetic themes of the melodies and their connection to the visual universe of the painters.

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Rain Bather:
Tobin Mueller (organ, synth, electric piano); Chris Mueller (piano); Jeff Cox (bass); Dane Richeson (drums); Woody Mankowski, Tom Washatka, Doug Schneider (sax); Richard Schaphorst (flugelhorn); Bob Levy (tpt); Bill Barner (clarinet, sax); Sal Giorgianni (flute); Martyn Kember-Smith (fiddle); McBoy (electric gtr)

The final CD of this trio, Rain Bather, is devoted entirely to Mueller’s own compositions and is performed by an excellent ensemble of 13 jazz musicians, grouped as quartets or the occasional septet and octet. For the most part, the melodies are based on Mueller’s original songs written for his off-Broadway play The Creature, based on the Frankenstein myth. The jazz styles wander among contemporary, progressive, big band, fusion, acid, and funk, giving the collection a lively, upbeat feel. Mueller here plays organ, synthesizer, and electric piano with his usual eloquence, leaving the acoustic piano to his nephew Chris Mueller. Woody Mankowski provides a lovely saxophone solo in Cliff’s Edge, Dane Richeson drums vibrantly in Finding No Path, and Sal Giorgianni’s flute enlivens Seven Buttons on a Nehru Jacket. The combination of acoustic and electric instruments adds to the variety, energy, and sheer delight of the album.

The sound has a vibrant club-like ambiance, and the extended play (nearly 80 minutes) is an added bonus. The CD, however, comes with no liner notes, necessitating going online for commentary.

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.


FANFARE: Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold

To read the Fanfare Magazine 2014 interview of Tobin Mueller, go here.

Tobin's Solo Piano Collection
Of Two Minds cover
Of Two Minds: The Music of Frédéric Chopin and Tobin Mueller is the final addition to Mueller's "Masterworks Trilogy" in which he explores the intersections of classical and jazz piano. Mueller reinterprets Chopin's most iconic piano solos (Disc 1) and uses the preludes to inspire three original jazz piano sonatas (Disc 2). Seductive, rebellious, heroic and beautiful, Mueller embraces Romanticism at its core, creating music that's distinctly personal and deeply poetic. Jazz, Blues, New Age and Romantic, Mueller weaves all strands of music into a single fabric. Achieved Fanfare Magazine's 2016 Editor's Choice Award.
Flow cover
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, joyous, beautiful, full of emotion and intelligence. Mueller embraces the sense of timelessness one achieves when in the state of flow, bridging the centuries, letting Bach's 300 year old manuscripts inspire through new expression. Modal Jazz, New Age, Neo-Classical and Baroque all combined in seamless synergy. Achieved Fanfare Magazine's 2015 Editor's Choice Award. Flow is second album of "The Masterworks Trilogy".
Impressions of Water and Light cover
Impressions of Water & Light is an exploration of the cross-inspirations between Impressionist and jazz piano, including adaptations of music by Debussy, Ravel, Fauré, Satie, Ibert and Carpenter. Tobin uses the written notes as if they are light and his imagination as if it is water, creating all new interpretations. This post-Impressionist music illustrates the intimacy between jazz and Impressionist music. You will never hear these works the same again. The gorgeous CD booklet is a work of art in itself, pairing an Impressionist painting with each piece. Impressions is second album of "The Masterworks Trilogy".
Impressions of Water and Light cover
Midwinter Born is a collection of jazz piano interpretations of traditional Christmas carols. Mueller captures the quiet simplicity, expectant playfulness and over-riding joy of the season. A delightful and sometimes surprising album destined to become one of your annual holiday favorites. The wonder of Christmas unfolds as Mueller takes you on a yuletide journey through his musical imagination. The 18 track album includes: First Noel, Bring A Torch Jeanette Isabella, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Holy Night, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Carol of the Bells, Lo How A Rose E'er Bloom, Good King Wenceslas, Still, Still, Still and many more.
Morning Whispers cover
Morning Whispers is Tobin's first solo piano collection, a song cycle of tragic beauty. Music of healing and introspection, these New Age and Neo-Classical pieces do more than evoke emotion: they tell stories. The use of key changes, unusual time signatures, and other variational devices makes this work involving, not merely New Age background music. Its gentle intensity, however, does not detract from its healing essence, its sense of inner joy. Influences include Frederic Chopin, Claude Debussy, Aaron Copland, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Bill Evans, David Lanz, Liz Story. Several of these piano pieces have since been used in film and documentaries.
13 Masks cover
13 Masks is Tobin's second solo piano collection. This project evolved from discussions about the role the subconscious plays in creativity. It is also an exploration of the links between avant-garde 20th Century music and jazz. Tobin used his illustrations of 13 Masks to inspire songs combining ragtime, jazz and 20th Century avant-garde classical. He let his subconscious lead the way, creating phrases and variations that pleased something deep inside, often avoiding normal forms and variations. 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. An eclectic mix of original of songs.
Afterwords cover
Afterwords - Combining spoken word and solo piano, Tobin "illustrates" his favorite works of literature with a wide variety of new musical compositions. Paying homage to classic authors like Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut and Faulkner, as well as contemporary authors such as Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, Aimee Bender and China Miéville, Mueller spins musical stories that will make you consider each author in a new light. Every track is a musical meditation, guided by inspiring and insightful quotations recited and underscored by Mueller. Taken as a whole, the album becomes a personal memoir of Mueller's life journey. The 18 tracks combine to represent the true breadth of his musical influences and accumulated experiences.
Tobin's Other CD Collections
Tobin's Jazz Collection
Come In Funky cover
Come In Funky Old School Funk and and small combo Jazz featuring legendary 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 resonate with intimacy, playfulness and humor. A delight. For more information, see: Come In Funky Project page. Released May 4 2014, in honor of Ron Carter's 77th birthday.

"You guys can play! These are, almost without exception, very complicated numbers in terms of rhythm and the general sync of solos with ensemble playing, a stellar set of recordings that, I believe, adds seriously to the body of jazz that this represents... A remarkable work in every single way I can think of. This is such a bright and happy album that is played with a spirit of invention and joy from the first notes to the last." - Paul Page
The Muller's Wheel cover
The Muller's Wheel is a collaborative project combining the talents of pianist Tobin Mueller and saxophonist Woody Mankowski, featuring their jazz quartet and larger ensemble. These original tracks represent their personal journey through jazz influences -- from swing to bop to fusion to funk. The styles of Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Herbie Hancock, The Brecker Brothers, Weather Report and more influence this homage to the jazz greats. Even the blues are given Mueller/Mankowski's uniquely bop-funk treatment. In all, the duo's originality permeate each track, each jazz sub-genre.

This is joyous music. It reminds us of the happiness we relive when returning to our musical roots. Mueller/Mankowski remind us how the personalities of certain eras continue to assert their influence and power.

"The Muller’s Wheel" title is based on the biological concept that mutation and DNA recombination creates cycles of growth and loss. It serves as a metaphor for the ebb and flow of the synthesis and creativity Mueller and Mankowski apply to their musical influences. The tracks are arranged in historical sequence, and the listener appreciates the cross-pollination between each of these genres. Listening from beginning to end creates a cyclical pilgrimage. It's rhythms and inventive flights of fancy invite the listener along for many return trips.
Rain Bather cover
Rain Bather is a jazz ensemble 80 minute long play CD. It features superlative solo performances byan all-star band members. Most of the tunes are in the jazz-funk-fusion vein, but many others try to break new ground, defying easy labels.

Tobin Mueller - B3 organ, electric piano, synth; composer
Woody Mankowski - soprano saxophone
Chris Mueller - acoustic piano
Jeff Cox - acoustic bass
Dane Richeson - drums & percussion
Tom Washatka - tenor saxophone
Doug Schnieder - tenor sax
Ken Schaphorst - flugelhorn
Bob Levy - trumpet
Sal Giorgianni - flute
Bill Barner - clarinet, additional sax
McBoy - electric guitars

Tobin's Rock Collection
Progressive Rock
Audiocracy cover
AUDIOCRACY is an international progressive rock collective. Their poetic writing and virtuosic performances make their high energy music life-affirming and uplifting, even considering the apocalyptic nature of their first release. Revolution's Son has been called "a masterpiece in the Epic Prog tradition." Progressive Magazine gave it 4 out 5 stars. Th story follows a revolutionary who comes to The City to be a catalyst for change and a prophet of truth. He falls into an Underground that urges a less innocent approach to change, leading to a post-apocalyptic finish. High energy, impressionistic prog.
Alternative Rock
A Bit of Light cover
A Bit of Light - A progressive folk / cross-genre collection of songs Tobin's been accumulating for a decade, A Bit of Light includes some of his favorite collaborations with saxophonists, fiddle players and guitarists, mixing jazz, bluegrass, tango and folk-rock. World renown violinist Entcho Todorov, Grammy winner saxophonist Danny McCaslin and L.A.'s Woody Mankowski, Enlish fiddler player Martyn Kember-Smith and guitarist John Luper provide fabulous highlights. The CD comes with a digital booklet in PDF format.
If I Live Long Enough cover
If I Could Live Long Enough - Previously unreleased outtakes from earlier projects, including the 1998-1999 Rain Bather sessions, the 2004-2006 MacJams collaborations, and selected songs from two of 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. Six free Bonus Tracks available here.
September 11 Project
September 11 Project cover
September 11 Project: Ten Years Later - Music written following 9/11/2001. Tobin was asked to participate in the 10th anniversary at Ground Zero ceremony and revisted these songs. He decided to put them out as an album instead of keep them to myself. Since he was unable to sing at the event, after contracting a lung disorder, this music gained layers of poignancy. Recorded in the months following the tragedy.
Tobin's Standards Collection
Song Of Myself cover
Song Of Myself - Tobin's favorite songs from The American Songbook, reinterpretted. Intimate, heartfelt, devistatingly honest music. Complete lyrics and song notes are linked from Tobin's Song of Myself page. Ballads, blues, showtunes, folk rock, jazz - the music of Tobin's roots. These are songs he's song for decades, arrangements that have evolved and matured with him.

"American Tune" by Paul Simon. "Blackbird" by Paul McCartney. Bob Dylan's "Dignity." A Joni Mitchell and an Elton John medly. "Being Alive" from Company (Stephen Sondheim). "Impossible Dream" from Man of la Mancha. "Oh Danny Boy." "Frozen Man" by James Taylor. Many more, plus two original songs by Tobin Mueller.
Hard Place To Find cover
Hard Place To Find - Tobin has released a second volume of his favorite songs from The American Songbook. Complete lyrics and song notes are linked from Tobin's Hard Place To Find project page. "Still Crazy" by Paul Simon. Bob Dylan's "Shelter from the Storm" and "Bob Dylan's Dream." Richie Haven's "Paradise." "Dulcinea" from Man of la Mancha. "Alfie" by Bacharach. "Somewhere" from West Side Story. Many more, plus one original song by Tobin Mueller. All songs have to do with journeying, questing, searching. Released June 2nd, 2013.

"Tobin Mueller is something of a Renaissance man of the arts, and 'Hard Place To Find' presents another volume in his prolific and impressive output. More of an art-music album than a pop release, I recommend it if you are looking for something different and deeply personal!" - Kathy Parsons, Mainly Piano
A Bit of Light cover
A Bit of Light - A progressive folk / cross-genre collection of songs featuring Mueller's vocals and a long list of his best friends and collaborators, including world renown violinist Entcho Todorov, Grammy winner saxophonist Danny McCaslin, L.A. saxophonist Woody Mankowski, English fiddler player Martyn Kember-Smith and Texan guitarist John Luper provide fabulous highlights. The music melds jazz, bluegrass, tango and folk-rock. The CD comes with a digital booklet in PDF format.
If I Live Long Enough cover
If I Could Live Long Enough - Previously unreleased outtakes from earlier projects, including the 1998-1999 Rain Bather sessions, the 2004-2006 MacJams collaborations, and selected songs from two of 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. 6 free Bonus Tracks available here.
September 11 Project cover
September 11 Project: Ten Years Later - Music written following 9/11/2001. Tobin was asked to participate in the 10th anniversary at Ground Zero ceremony and revisted these songs. He decided to put them out as an album instead of keep them to myself. Since he was unable to sing at the event, after contracting a lung disorder, this music gained layers of poignancy. Recorded in the months following the tragedy.
Poetry / Spoken Word
As Simple As Soap cover
As Simple As Soap - Del lends his deep voice and unique personality to Tobin's award-winning poetry. Love, fatherhood, history, 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 adds great emotional depth. The force and color of Del's voice earns this collection a high recommendation; the breathtaking and varied accompaniments make this a truly fascinating addition to Tobin Mueller's collected works.
Afterwords cover
Afterwords - Combining spoken word and solo piano, Tobin "illustrates" his favorite works of literature with a wide variety of new musical compositions. Paying homage to classic authors like Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut and Faulkner, as well as contemporary authors such as Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, Aimee Bender and China Miéville, Mueller spins musical stories that will make you consider each author in a new light. Every track is a musical meditation, guided by inspiring and insightful quotations recited and underscored by Mueller. Taken as a whole, the album becomes a personal memoir of Mueller's life journey. The 18 tracks combine to represent the true breadth of his musical influences and accumulated experiences.