Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 1: Jazz Originals
2023 / Tobin Mueller
Review by Kathy Parsons
Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 1: Jazz Originals is the first of five "Best Of" albums by pianist/composer/ organist Tobin Mueller (the other four volumes will be released during the year) - and what a huge body of work he has had to draw from! I've had the pleasure of reviewing Tobin's music since his 2005 release, Morning Whispers, and each album has presented something different and unique whether the music was solo or with other musicians, jazz or classical or rock or some combination, instrumental or vocal - you get the idea! Tobin has released more than 35 albums, written a dozen musical plays, and composed more than 500 songs. He has composed for Broadway, film, ballet, youth education, and video games, and has recorded with a very impressive list of artists from a wide range of genres and styles.
It needs to be noted that the twenty-one tracks on this album (and the other upcoming Best Of releases) were not just taken from previous albums in their original form to create a compilation. The recordings have been reworked and remastered to bring out the best in the various solos and soloists as well as updating the older recordings to current standards. The sound quality is amazing and consistent throughout - unlike many compilations! Tobin explains it best:
"My favorite part of remixing, editing & remastering these recordings was refreshing myself with incredible moments created by each soloist. Originally, several of these pieces were part of a 'concept album' idea, and my producer & I built in clever audio tweaks to bring that concept out. In remixing them, however, I wanted only one thing: to make each performance shine. We got rid of bells & whistles and brought out the drumming, the soloists, the bass lines, etc.
"Also, several of the small combo recordings were a little flat, almost mono old school recordings. We spread the voicings out, tried to enable each player to have a place in the 3-dimensional audio field. I think we succeeded in bringing new life to each recording.
"In addition, I layered in new B3 Organ on several tracks, added in sections that had been edited out of earlier releases (making some of these tracks longer than their original release), and edited out a few spots where there was distortion, clicks, and other anomalies.
"This series presents my favorite recordings, polished and vitally present, as a testimony to the great players I’ve worked with, the legacy of creativity I’ve been able to ride, and the joy of music that has buoyed me my entire life."
Since this is a digital release, you might want to check out the extensive notes on Tobin's website where he lists the musicians as well as the album(s) where each piece previously appeared. It should be mentioned that Spotify has designated the album as a "compilation," so it is listed in that category rather than as an "album" in Tobin's Spotify discography.
With twenty-one tracks on the album, I'm not going to try to write about each piece. I can tell you, though, that the overall feeling of Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 1: Jazz Originals is an expression of the joy of making music with kindred spirits and the magic that can happen. The music is upbeat, fresh, soulful, and a whole lot of fun to listen to! Tobin plays acoustic and electric pianos, organ and vintage synths and also composed all of the music (sometimes in collaboration with other artists). His guest artists include Woody Mankowski (saxes), Chris Mueller (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Fran Dagostino (guitar) and a host of other outstanding musicians. Vibrant and bursting with life, don't expect to fall asleep to this one!
Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 1: Jazz Originals is an outstanding start to the series of Best Of albums! Volume 2 will be released on February 28, 2023 and will cover Tobin's arrangements - "Reimagined Standards." There is also a two-volume series in the works called Tobin Mueller: At the Piano. I'm REALLY looking forward to that one! In the meantime, you can buy or stream Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 1: Jazz Originals from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites such as Spotify and Pandora. It can also be listened to in its entirety on Tobin's website. Videos of some of the tracks are there, too. It's a great website for a great musician! And this is a great album! Check it out!
February 9, 2023