Song of Myself is my latest solo 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.
Here are links to the songs with links to song pages that include lyrics and notes. I will announce here when the actual CD is available later this year. Text of lyrics are also embedded in each mp3 song file (see song pages):
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).
|The Muller's Wheel / Jazz...|
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 / Jazz...|
Tobin's first pure jazz recording is Rain Bather, a jazz ensemble 80 minute long play CD. Tobin plays B3 organ and composes all the tunes. 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
|Tobin's first solo piano collection is Morning Whispers, a song cycle of tragic beauty. Although it's marketed as New Age, it is more Neo-Classical and melancholy than most New Age recordings. 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.
The second is 13 Masks. 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 mic of original of songs, for sure
For more details, see Tobin Mueller's Recordings...
|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.
|• Tobin on CDBaby • Tobin on iTunes •
• Member: ASCAP, Dramatists Guild (NYC).