At the Piano, Volume 1
2024 / Tobin Mueller
Review by Kathy Parsons
If you have read many of my reviews, I'm sure you are aware of how strongly I am pulled toward artists who transcend genres and categories to carve out their own musical niches and blaze their own musical trails. Pianist/composer Tobin Mueller is definitely one such artist and I'm very pleased to say that I've been reviewing his recordings since his 2005 debut piano album, Morning Whispers. Thirty-two album reviews later, I still never know what to expect from this incredibly creative and versatile artist.
During 2023, Tobin released the beyond impressive Best of Tobin Mueller, Vols. 1-5, with each volume subtitled with one of the general categories of "Jazz Originals," "Jazz Arrangements," "Prog Fusion," "Vocals," and "Chill." What made these albums different from the original recordings was that the tracks were reworked and remastered to bring out the best in the various solos and soloists as well as updating the older recording techniques to current standards. At the Piano, Vol. 1 follows a similar concept, featuring ten piano solos and one piano duet from eight of Tobin's previous albums plus one new piece. Compilations of piano music are usually from several albums that are often recorded with different pianos, and the changing piano sounds and recording techniques can distract from the music itself. That hasn't been the case with any of Tobin's "best of" albums - they all sound very fresh and new and have a consistent sound quality that takes them far beyond typical compilations.
The eleven older tracks on At the Piano, Vol. 1 include pieces from albums released from 2005-2021; "A Prayer For Keith Jarrett" appears for the first time on this album. Overall, the music would likely fit into the jazz piano genre, but some of the tracks are on the quiet, more meditative side and some are much "bigger" and more dramatic. Blues, bop, gospel, new age and Latin are just a few of the musical sub-genres that are included in this collection, each creating its own kind of magic. If you are looking for music to fall asleep to, this album likely won't work, although it's very easy to get pleasantly lost in the music! More than anything, At the Piano, Vol. 1 clearly demonstrates Tobin's mastery of the piano as well as the amazing versatility in his music.
There are YouTube videos for many of the pieces on the album that add another layer of meaning to the music. You can go directly to YouTube for those or find the links from Tobin's website where he gives a lot more information about individual pieces on the album as well as the album(s) where each track originated.
At the Piano, Vol. 1 is available from Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes as well as from many streaming sites including Spotify. At the Piano, Vol. 2 will be released in March 2024. Very highly recommended for more adventurous piano music lovers!
January 3, 2024