After completing Midwinter Born, I had a few ideas leftover that I thought might form the core of a new solo piano project. While playing a jazz chord progression, struggling to decide on a melody, I realized Claire de Lune kept whispering over the top. It made me think back to when I was a kid and loved listening to orchestrations of Debussy's piano works, then later, learned how to play them myself. Debussy was my grandfather's favorite composer and George Gershwin was my mother's. I have always thought of the two together, not only because of this personal connection, but also because there are many jazz tendencies that find their harmonic roots in the Impressionist music of Debussy and others.
Why not approach the music of the Impressionists as a contemporary jazz musician? I could explore this connection as I lose myself in the music, spontaneously. Let myself find my own impressions, as if the written notes were light and my imagination was water...
I thought the project would turn into a jazz collection with Impressionist overtones, and some of these pieces are, but mostly I found myself forging a balance between Impressionism and jazz, creating a Neo-Classical post-Impressionist hybrid. Some pieces sound like re-arrangements, familiar, yet with a new tonal setting. Some are fresh compositions that merely quote a few known passages. Some are theme and variations, as old and new duel, collaborate. All are Fantasies that explore the intimacy between jazz and Impressionist music, between myself and my favorite composers. I hope you are able to go back to the originals, to reconnect with them; the contrast will heighten your enjoyment. I know I'll never hear them the same again.
Impressions of Water and Light is Mueller’s discourse with the great Impressionist composers.
- Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold, Fanfare Magazine
I like to think of some Impressionist music as Pastoral pre-Jazz. Sophisticated modal harmonies and playful improvisation give shape to fluid dissonance, yet avoid the urban agitations and twentieth century displacements (syncopation) that energize much of modern jazz. Many Impressionist pieces flip from idea to idea without conformity, like a catbird scatting. Idyllic, illusive running brooks pervade many of it's melodies. Still meadows, gardens in full bloom, a sunrise over drifting waves, and the exultations of springtime give much of this music dreamy context and inspiration. Sensual music, mythic yet tactile. This poetic essence is what I've tried to illuminate in each of my interpretations, regardless of the genre they (almost) fall into.
Debussy has been called "the determining factor in the music of the 20th century because of the doors he opened and the restraints he cast aside." That is one of the reasons his works form the core of my explorations. The other reason is my love for his music. What a fabulous cultural time. I've paired paintings of the era with each of the pieces to add one more layer...
"These piano realizations are inventive, as they creatively flower from the roots of familiar impressionistic compositions. They are wonderfully played by Tobin Mueller with sumptuous yet carefree styling. A beautiful synthesis of melodic tethers, pleasing harmonics and jazzy counterpoint."
1. Fantasy Girl with Flaxen Hair (Claude Debussy)
2. Leur chanson se mêle au Clair de Lune (Claude Debussy)
3. Dance for a Princess Gone (Maurice Ravel)
4. River god at play... (Maurice Ravel)
5. Le Petit Négre variations (Claude Debussy)
6. Rêverie (Claude Debussy)
7. Tango Américaine (John Alden Carpenter)
8. Blue Prelude (Claude Debussy)
9. Pavane (Gabriel Fauré)
10. Golliwog is Steppin' Out (Claude Debussy)
11. A Giddy Girl's Fantasy (Jacques Ibert)
12. Risen Cathedral (Claude Debussy)
I saw Frank Sinatra on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson many years ago. With an impish grin, Johnny asked him, "So, when you're entertaining a young lady in your home, do you play Sinatra (to try and seduce her), like the rest of us?" "No," Frank replied, "I put on something classy, like The Sunken Cathedral."
13. Sitting with Satie: Conversation & Life (Erik Satie)
COVER ART: Water Lilies by Claude Monet, 1906.
Artwork used to illustrate each track:
|More Solo Piano...|
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 and letting Bach's 300 year old manuscripts inspire through new expression. Flow is one part homage, one part internal romance. Modal Jazz, New Age, Neo-Classical and Baroque all combined in seamless synergy. 16-page booklet included with 2-disc CD. Flow has been included in Fanfare Magazine's 2015 Want List, their Editors' Choice "Not To Be Missed" recordings.
MidWinter Born is a collection of jazz reinterpretations of traditional Christmas carols for solo piano. Mueller captures the quiet simplicity, expectant playfulness, and over-riding joy of the season. It is his prettiest, most delightul solo piano album. Mueller’s playing ranges from New Age to Neo-classical, modal jazz to honky tonk. The wonder of Christmas unfolds as he takes you on a yuletide journey through his musical imagination. The ancient quality of this music is never lost; the modern musical twists add layers of respect, honoring the historical roots of each melody.
Morning Whispers: Tobin's first solo piano collection is a song cycle of tragic beauty. Music of healing and introspection. New Age and Neo-Classical. The use of key changes, unusual time signatures, and other variational devices makes this work involving, not merely background music. Its internal intensity, however, does not detract from its healing essence, its sense of inner joy. This is Mueller's most introspective work. Several of these works have since been used in film. Cover photo taken by Mueller on Cape Cod.
13 Masks: Tobin's second solo piano collection. This project came out of discussions about the role subconscious plays in creativity. Tobin used his illustration of 13 Masks to inspire songs combining ragtime, jazz and avant-garde classical. He let his subconscious lead the way, creating phrases and variations that pleased something deep inside. An eclectic mix of original of songs, for sure.
The Muller's Wheel has been remastered! This collaborative project combines the talents of pianist Tobin Mueller and saxophonist Woody Mankowski in Jazz Quartet and larger ensemble settings. 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. Click here to learn more about the recording.
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. Click here to learn more about the recording.
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
Come In Funky - Jazz-Funk - 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 - funky Jazz etudes - resonate with unique 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.
|Voice & Piano...|
Hard place To Find - voice/piano - Following on the success of Song of Myself (see below), Tobin has released a second volume of his favorite songs. Complete lyrics and song notes are linked from Tobin's Hard Place To Find project page. Cover features artwork by Eric Green.
"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 having to do with journeying, questing, searching. Released June 2nd, 2013.
Song of Myself - voice/piano - Tobin's favorite cover songs, reinterpretted. Intimate, heartfelt, devistatingly honest music. Complete lyrics and song notes are linked from Tobin's Song of Myself project page. Ballads, blues, showtunes, folk rock, jazz - the music of Tobin's roots. These are songs he's song for decades, songs that have evolved and matured with him. New additions to the Great American Songbook.
"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.
A moving and meaningful compilation. Songs from a life well lived. Released July 13th, 2012.
|Audiocracy / Progressive Rock...|
See: Audiocracy: Revolution's Son for latest band info.
Ever since Tobin first listened to Yes, he's been enthralled with progressive rock. Using the Internet, he collaborated with players from around the world. He put tracks together piece by piece, a whole different way to record, but it was very rewarding: the music is inventive and driving!
The album was well reviewed in Progessive and other leading prog mags. The CD inculdes a collection of great arwork illustrating each song by Hovakimian Anoushavan. Please check it out.
Tobin Mueller: organs, synths, pianos, drum programming, backing vocals
Twon: vocals, bass, acoustic guitar
Bob Piper: electric guitar, guitar synth
Darren Chapman: electric guitar
Tadashi Togawa: guitars
Rob Thurman: drums
• Audiocracy on CDBaby
• Audiocracy on iTunes
|A Bit Of Light / Alternative Rock...|
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, saxophonists Danny McCaslin and Woody Mankowski, and guitarist John Luper provide fabulous highlights.
The CD comes with a digital booklet in PDF format:
Download the Digital Booklet here!
(click to view in browser, right-click to download to desktop)
For more details, see Tobin Mueller's Recordings...
• A Bit Of Light on CDBaby
• A Bit Of Light iTunes
|September 11 Project|
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.