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Album Review: What Survives: Radio Edits
Tobin Mueller
Cover image of the album What Survives: Radio Edits by Tobin Mueller
What Survives: Radio Edits
Tobin Mueller
2020 / Tobin Mueller
78 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
What Survives: Radio Edits is a somewhat scaled-down version of the nearly 2 1/2 hour digital release, What Survives, a collection of original jazz recordings inspired by Tobin Mueller’s Broadway musical, Creature (written in 1995). Don’t get me wrong - the Radio Edits version clocks in at an impressive 78 minutes. It is available as a CD as well as a download, although the digital version includes three additional tracks that include Mueller’s latest composition, “Denouement,” a soulful piano solo composed twenty-five years after Creature.

Creature is based on a one-act musical called Frankenspell Superstar and was originally a progressive rock opera. Later versions incorporated jazz, fusion and R&B elements. Like the full-length album, the Radio Edits version presents the listener with a veritable smorgasbord of instrumentals, vocals, solos, duets, larger ensemble pieces and more. If anyone has any doubts about Tobin Mueller’s extraordinary versatility as both a composer and a performer, any version of What Survives should take care of it. From smooth, sweet ballads to funky bravado to straight-ahead jazz, there is literally something for everyone here. Vibrant and full of life to heartbreakingly sad, What Survives: Radio Edits will rock your world - in a good way!

In addition to composing the music and writing the lyrics, Tobin Mueller appears on B3 organ, electric pianos, synths, acoustic piano and vocals. Guest artists include Mueller’s frequent collaborator, Woody Mankowski (soprano sax and soulful vocals), his nephew Chris Mueller (acoustic piano), Doug Schneider and Tom Washatka (tenor sax), Dane Richeson (drums and percussion), Ron Carter (bass) and Emily Rohm (vocals). There is extensive information about the musical(s) and the music on Mueller’s website (TobinMueller.com) as well as links for sampling and streaming the music.

“Cliff’s Edge” starts things off with the full ensemble. An upbeat jazz instrumental, there is lots of sax, organ and percussion for a contemporary Big Band sound. “Secret of Life” is also a jazz instrumental, but much “cooler” and arranged for a quintet. “A Promise,” a poignant and heartfelt soliloquy, is sung by Woody Mankowski as the young Dr. Frankenstein at his mother’s grave. “Dreams” is Mueller’s most-recorded tune and has appeared on a dozen albums with different artists singing the song in a variety of styles. Mankowski brings deep emotion to this tender lullaby. This is the third album “Windowshade” has been on (remastered for each), and it is still one of my favorites of Tobin’s pieces. Technically a duet, it goes above and beyond with Mueller playing all keyboards and percussion and Mankowski playing a variety of saxes (no vocals on this one). Funky and fun, I dare you to keep your feet from tapping! The dramatic, high-energy “Finding No Path” incorporates a variety of jazz styles to create a driving quartet for drums/percussion, acoustic bass, B3 organ and synths, and piano. “What Survives” is a new version of the finale to the Broadway version of Creature, written especially for Woody Mankowski (vocals and sax). Impassioned performances run throughout the piece, making it a real stand-out. “Waltzing Night Into Day” is a slow, beautiful jazz waltz (instrumental) performed by the quintet (organ, sax, piano, acoustic bass and drums).

What Survives: Radio Edits can become very pleasantly habit-forming! It is available from TobinMueller.com, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and Deezer. Check it out!
August 11, 2020
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