2017 / Tobin Mueller
Review by Kathy Parsons
I first became aware of Tobin Mueller and his music in early 2006 when I was asked to review his solo piano debut, Morning Whispers. Afterwords is the seventeenth of his albums that I have reviewed and I would have to say that the constants in all of his projects have been change, innovation and artistry. I am always in awe of Tobin’s fearless pursuit of honesty and the originality of his work - qualities that tend to be ever more elusive in these days of dumbing-down the arts to a one-size fits all sameness. Tobin’s projects over the past few years have become increasingly more personal, revealing more of his inner self than even he might realize. Afterwords seems to be his most personal project yet, pairing passages from some of his favorite novels, short stories and poems with his original solo piano compositions. The quotations become meditations of a sort and were chosen from a wildly diverse group of authors that includes Ernest Hemingway, Jerzy Kosinski, China Mieville, Walt Whitman, and Dave Eggers. The musical pairings are equally diverse, demonstrating Tobin’s command of a broad range of music genres. The music weaves in and out of the spoken-word passages, illustrating them as only music can and creating an astonishing work of art.
Afterwords is a two-disc set that includes a sixteen-page booklet with all of the spoken word quotations, Mueller’s thoughts about each quote, and many intriguing illustrations that I assume were also created by Mueller since no credit for them is given in the package. There are nine tracks on Disc 1 and 8 on Disc 2, for a combined total of 84 minutes. The music ranges from jazz to classically-influenced and is sometimes lively and sometimes more meditative. The pieces flow from one to the next to tell a more complete story, but each piece is unique to the quotation that inspired it. It’s a fascinating journey through a collection of writings that influenced Mueller’s work and most likely his life as well. Like the music, the quotations are very diverse - sometimes ironic, sometimes tender and always thought-provoking. Afterwords is a unique project and a singular work of art.
Afterwords will definitely be on my list of Favorite Albums for the year! It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. I give it my highest recommendation!
There is a shorter companion CD of solo piano bonus tracks that I will review separately.
May 18, 2017
with Woody Mankowski