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Album Review: At The Piano, Volume 2
Tobin Mueller
Cover image of the album At The Piano, Volume 2 by Tobin Mueller
At The Piano, Volume 2
Tobin Mueller
2024 / Tobin Mueller
57 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
At The Piano, Volume 2 is the second half of Tobin Mueller's two-part collection of his best original piano pieces. The twelve piano solos on this album include remastered favorites from seven of Tobin's albums plus two that haven't been previously released. I reviewed Tobin's first piano album, Morning Whispers, in early 2006 and it was obvious even then that he was an artist who wasn't following musical trends. Thirty-three albums later, it's still very apparent that Tobin follows his own muse, creating the music that feels right for him about things that have inspired him or sparked his imagination. From mythology to spoken word with his music behind it, to classical inspirations to 9/11 and more, his has been an exceptionally varied career and I'm so glad to have been along for the ride!

Like At The Piano, Volume 1 and the five-part Best of Tobin Mueller series, At The Piano, Volume 2 isn't simply tracks taken from their previous recordings and compiled into a "best of." The music has been reworked and remastered to update the older recording techniques to current standards and to give the album a consistent piano sound from the first track to the last - and that sound quality is beautiful! In addition to the recording, Tobin has created music videos for all of the twelve tracks that offer more meaning and understanding of the music, from illustrating some of the myths he composed music about to visual interpretations of the music, the videos are well-worth the time to explore. Links to them are on Tobin's website.

The album begins with "Prelude to Emancipation" from Instead of Heaven (2021). The piece was inspired by the myth of Morpheus, the Greek god associated with sleep, dreams, and shape-shifting. Light and fun with a playful, jazzy attitude, you won't be falling asleep to this one! "Gumshoe Ragtime" was originally titled "The Gumshoe Wears a Rag" when it appeared on Tobin's 13 Masks (2007). Also on the playful side, Tobin calls it "Progressive Ragtime." "Gift of Wings" also comes from Instead of Heaven, and is a musical re-telling of the myth of Daedalus and his son Icarus, who flew too close to the sun. This one is especially effective with the video. One of Tobin's many ambitious projects was the two-disk Flow: The Music of J.S. Bach and Tobin Mueller (2015) and "Curved Surfaces" is from one of the two suites Tobin composed to demonstrate how JS Bach's music has influenced his own. The video for this one is also very effective and fun to watch. "Sea Storm" is one of the two previously unreleased pieces and combines elements of "Chaos of the Subconscious" and "I Sail On" from 13 Masks. Powerful, dramatic and more than a little chaotic, it was inspired by the music of Shostakovich and Ravel. Tobin's 2016 Of Two Minds had a similar approach to Flow, only this time it was a two-disk set featuring the music of Frederic Chopin and Tobin. "Star Fall" is the third movement of Tobin's Sonata for Dreamers, and shows his more graceful and melodic side. "A Prayer For Those Who Come After" is a new composition and is a companion piece to "A Prayer for Keith Jarrett," which closed out At The Piano, Volume 1. In the video, Tobin states that "Passing down culture & technique, innovation & insight, is one of the joys of growing old." Both the music and the video are very thoughtful and inspiring. "The Shape of Love" is a beautiful piece from Afterwords (2017), an album that combines solo piano with spoken word meditations. This version is just the piano and I love it! - a great ending to an excellent album!

At The Piano, Volume 2 will be released on February 20, 2024 and will be available to download from Tobin's website, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and various streaming platforms including Spotify. You can pre-order the album from both Amazon and Apple/iTunes now. It's a musical adventure that is well-worth taking!
February 15, 2024
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