Song of Myself is my first "cover songs" project: reinterpretations of songs I've sung for decades, just me at the piano, playing for myself. The title is from a work by Walt Whitman, the first poet I tried to emulate with my own early poetry.
In his poetry collection "Leaves of Grass," Walt Whitman wrote about his own death for many years before it actually ocurred. Similarly, these are song I'd love to be able to play at my own funeral. Perhaps my recent health issues with A1AD and related lung problems brought the idea to mind. It makes using Whitman's title "Song of Myself" all the more fitting.
I was unable to sing for over a year. The next few years (months?) may be a small window of time where I'm able to sing again. My voice lacks the strength, control and range that it had before my lungs began to shrink and fail and discomfort became omnipresent, but the aged quality of the vocal performance has a depth and poignancy a younger voice may not be able to achieve. (One of the criteria I used to chose these songs was that the lyrics work with my "new" voice.) I spaced out the recordings over eight months because I experienced severe chest pains following most sessions, and once suffered a lung collapse, and therefore needed recovery time after each. But, as I tell myself, this gave me time to work on the arrangements.
The main purpose of each arrangement is to bring out the meaning and depth of the lyrics, highlighting them in inventive accompaniment phrasings, shifting harmonic settings, etc. Please pay special attention to the piano.
Two tracks are hydrid songs, grafting lyrics from related songs by the artist that I thought worked well as textual implants. "Blue Tattoo" combines material from 5 Joni Mitchell songs under a single emotional concept, using the structure of her song, "Blue," as the organizing principle. The other hydrid, "I Have Been Decieved," combines 3 Elton John songs into a single story line, although the main framework is his 1969 "The King Must Die." My version of "Blackbird" integrates a moment from Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," as well. In all cases, I'm trying to get at a deeper reading of specific lyrics, not merely trying to be clever. For those of you who know the originals, it will be a fun kind of audio treasure hunt. Also, I think my alterations of Jon Anderson's lyrics in "Let's Pretend" add an additoinal layer of meaning to his song (as well as make it more personal to my life), so I included his original lyrics for comparison when embedding the lyrics into the MP3 file (if viewed in iTunes).
I hope the simplicity of a weathered solo voice and warm acoustic piano lends to each song, each lyric, a special intimacy. (As an example, I sang "Frozen Man" while recovering from pneumonia, adding to it's authenticity.)
Track 11, a fantasy inspired by Harold Arlen's "Over the Rainbow," is an instrumental, a duet for piano and soprano sax (Woody Mankowski). A fitting final track. Plus, it was the first song I arranged on my new baby grand piano after it arrived.
After listening to the complete collection, I couldn't help but add, as a Bonus Track, an unreleased recording, "Before There Were Gods," made following Michael Hedges' untimely death, with the blessings of his estate. It encorporates his amazing guitar work from "Lenono," with additions by me, including layered vocals. Unlike the other songs in this collection that are all recorded during 2011/2012, it was recorded in 2004, when I was breathing freely.
Song samples and links to purchase or share on social media:
If the above player doesn't work on your browser, please listen here. These are complete tracks:
1. Impossible Dream [Mitch Leigh/Joe Darion, from Man of la Mancha]
VIDEOS on YouTube:
Tobin Mueller's grandfather was a violinist for silent films, his mother was a vocalist. He started his music career at age 14, arranging music for his mom. He grew up in Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Marquette University and UW Milwaukee. He moved to NYC in the 90's and had several shows produced off-Broadway. He now lives in Connecticut. A multi-talented songwriter, playwright, photographer, collaborative artist, Tobin's free spirited ways of artistic discovery are dedicated to creating new expressions of music and collaboration.
Tobin has journeyed through musical theater, classical, jazz, and progressive rock. He's written ballets, film scores, children's music, poetry, historical fiction, political essays, domestic humor, and video games. He has recorded with Dave Brubeck, Ken Schaphorst, Woody Mankowski, Donny McCaslin, Janet Planet, Entcho Todorov, Dane Richeson, and others.
Tobin was one of the volunteers who worked at Ground Zero following the attack on 9/11/2001 in Manhattan, where he lived at the time. He coordinated a distribution center effort at Chelsea Piers to supply the first responders, an effort the people working on The Pile dubbed "The Home Depot." His exposer to the toxic dust, during that time, has contributed to his lung problems. He sings about this experience in his collection The September 11 Project: Ten Years Later.
In London, Tobin was inducted into the United Nations 1994 Global 500 Roll of Honor for his work with youth and the environment. His theatre touring troupe CenterStage Productions won numerous awards performing his original musicals. RAIN BATHER album won ALBUM OF THE YEAR in 2009, from Jazz Chicago. THE MULLER'S WHEEL is currently spotlighted at JazzRadioDC.com and Orbert Davis' Chicago Jazz Philharmonic. Tobin's solo piano albums are full of music inventions. (See Recordings for available CDs, or email the artist.)
Member: ASCAP, Dramatists Guild (NYC).
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.
"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 is a collaborative project combining 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.
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
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. 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.
Of Two Minds: The Music of Frédéric Chopin and Tobin Mueller is the final addition to Mueller's "The Masters Trilogy" in which he explores the music of J.S. Bach (Flow), the Impressionists (Impressions of Water & Light), and now Chopin. He 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, lovely. Mueller embraces Romanticism at its core, music that's distinctly personal and deeply poetic. Jazz, Blues, New Age and Romantic, Mueller is able to weave all strands of music into a single fabric. A 16-page booklet is included with the 2-disc CD.
Impressions of Water & Light is an exploration of Impressionist piano music, including Debussy, Ravel, Fauré and Satie. Tobin uses the written notes as if they are light and his imagination as if it is water... creating all new intrerpretations based on music of the Impressionists. The result is a post-Impressionist example of the inherent intimacy between jazz and Impressionist music, between Tobin and his favorite composers. You will never hear these works the same again. This CD booklet is a work of art in itself and includes a pairing of an Impressionist painting to illustrate each piece.
MidWinter Born is Tobin's collection of jazz reinterpretations of traditional Christmas carols. 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 is Tobin's first solo piano collection, 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 piano pieces have since been used in film. Cover photo taken by Mueller on Cape Cod.
13 Masks is 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.
|Voice & piano...|
Hard place To Find - voice/piano - Following on the success of Song of Myself (see below), Tobin has released a new volume of his favorite songs. 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 having to do with journeying, questing, searching. Released June 2nd, 2013 on CDBaby.com. Will be available on iTunes soon...
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 gthe event, after contracting a lung disorder, this music gained layers of poignancy. Recorded in the months following the tragedy.