Come In Funky
2014 / Tobin Mueller
Review by Kathy Parsons
Come In Funky is the twelfth release from Tobin Mueller (I’ve reviewed them all!), and I have to say that this is one artist who never fails to surprise. I can think of very few artists who come close to Mueller’s versatility and drive in so many artistic pursuits. Musically, he is all over the map from solo piano to jazz to vocals to musicals, folk, classical and progressive rock - and he does them all exceptionally well. Mueller has included original funk-influenced tracks on some of his earlier recordings, but this is the first full album of jazz and funk. Mueller collaborated with legendary bassist Ron Carter and sax player Woody Mankowski to create a collection of thirteen upbeat, often carefree tunes - five with Carter and six with Mankowski; one is just Mueller and there is a bonus track that includes the late Fran Dagostino on guitar. Mueller appears on electric piano, organ, and synth. Some of these recordings go back fourteen years and some go back eight. Finishing touches on the album were being done in 2011 when life got in the way and the project was shelved until Mueller’s son, Woody, recently heard the tracks and loved the sound. Several of these pieces are in a classic funk “big band” style from the 1970’s while others are a bit more subdued. All convey playfulness, humor and the unbridled joy of making music. It is interesting to note that the layout of the album is unusual in that the bigger funk pieces with Mankowski are alternated with the four much cooler jazz “Interludes” that are duets featuring Mueller and Carter.
Come In Funky begins with the title tune with Carter’s fingers tapping on the bass (like a knock on the door) and Mueller’s laugh. Then Carter leads off with a catchy bass line that conveys pure fun(k). Organ and sax come in - cool and breezy - and then the trio gets cooking. “Frankenfanny” also features the trio in an infectious jazz groove. “Deconstruction of a Glance” sounds like a huge band of saxes and brass as well as organ and percussion - driving and very danceable. “Interlude I: Grandfather Clock” is the first duet with Mueller (organ) and Carter (bass) - what a duo! “Hitchhiker Tales” returns to the big funk sound of a full band and a really smokin’ organ. I can’t imagine anyone being able to sit still through this one - or not cracking a smile - my favorite! “Interlude III: Prowl” is a slinky little number for organ and bass guitar - intoxicating! “Beam Up the Funk” all but dances out of the CD player, strutting around with a major (good time) attitude - fantastic party music! “Blue Tats” is based on Joni Mitchell’s “Blue.” Quite a bit more stripped down than the big funk pieces, it’s a nice contrast with keyboard and sax and a little bass guitar. The bonus track, “What I Was Thinking While You Were Talking” features Mueller on organ and Fran Dagostino on acoustic guitar (“wonderfully mangled through the magic of electronics” - liner notes). Sometimes cool and aloof and sometimes sparkling and bright, it brings this unique and exhilarating album to a close.
I’m sure you can tell that this isn’t music for massage or meditation, but it can certainly give the spirit a big lift while providing an hour of swirling musical fun. Come In Funky is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Check it out!
June 8, 2014
with Woody Mankowski