Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 2 - Jazz Arrangements
2023 / Tobin Mueller
Review by Kathy Parsons
Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 2 - Jazz Arrangements is the second of pianist/composer/multi-instrumentalist Tobin Mueller's five-volume "Best Of" collection. Volume 1 - Jazz Originals is a collection of twenty-one of Tobin's instrumental jazz compositions that were reworked and remastered for the album. Volume 2 contains his arrangements of seventeen jazz standards (instrumentals) and three of his vocals for more than an hour and a half of upbeat listening pleasure.
Ten of the tracks are from Tobin's 2018 Standard Deviations album and seven are from last year's Prestidigitation. However, this is not a compilation album featuring the original recordings. All ten tracks from Standard Deviations have been completely remixed as well as remastered. Four of the seven tracks from Prestidigitation were also remixed, making some of the solos more prominent and bringing out some of the passing notes that Tobin felt were too soft in the earlier version. All seven pieces from Prestidigitation were remastered and now have a more three-dimensional sound and feeling. Some tracks include overdubbed electric piano or organ as well as other changes that even include adding and subtracting some of the musicians (technology!). The last three pieces on the album are vocals - two from Song Of Myself (2012) and one from Hard Place To Find (2013), also reworked and remastered. So, although Spotify has classified the albums in the "Best Of" series as compilations, they really aren't since they are comprised of new versions of all of the music.
I think Tobin's explanation of his "Best Of" collections says it best: "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 (rather than double CDs with extensive liner notes), you might want to check out Tobin's website and the wealth of information there about who composed the music, the players, and much more, including links to the music videos for most of the pieces and downloads of the MP3s. There is also a wealth of info about the other four volumes.
All twenty tracks are worth mentioning in detail, but that would make this review much too long. The selection is about as diverse as it gets with music composed by Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Leonard Bernstein, Frank Zappa, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Lennon and McCartney, Hoagy Carmichael, James Taylor and others (when was the last time you saw some of those names listed in the same sentence?). What binds the music into a seamless album is a group of amazing musicians sharing the unbridled joy of making music together. Don't expect this album to put you to sleep, though! It swings and soars, rocks and rolls, often all but dancing out of the music player. There are some more laid-back tracks, too, but overall, the album has a lot of strongly positive energy.
Tobin Mueller plays an amazing number of different instruments on the album including electric and acoustic pianos, B3 organ, synths, electric and acoustic bass, Planet clavichord, harmonium, recorder and penny whistle - a one-man band for sure! Collaborating musicians include Woody Mankowski (saxes and wordless vocals), Paul Nelson (electric guitar), Mike Nappi (drums), Mikie Martel (brass), and Isaiah Schmidt (drums). Kenny Cash produced and mastered the album and also appears on a few tracks playing hand percussion and/or electric bass.
I've been reviewing Tobin Mueller's music since 2006 and he has produced a more-than-impressive body of work covering a staggering range of music (this is the 28th album of his that I've reviewed!). The first two albums in this retrospective have been incredible, and I'm looking forward to Volumes 3, 4, and 5 as well as a solo piano collection that's also in the works.
Best of Tobin Mueller, Vol. 2 - Jazz Arrangements is available from Tobin's website, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites including Spotify. Very highly recommended!
March 24, 2023