Reviewed by Kathy Parsons (Solo Piano Publications/Ambient Visions):
From its title and the peaceful ocean sunset on the CD cover, I expected Tobin Mueller’s CD, “Morning Whispers,” to be very calm and serene. Mueller blends classical, jazz, and new age styles to create a distinctive style all his own. Some of the ten tracks are bold and edgy while others are quieter and more reflective. The album is the result of a special commission to create a cycle of songs for solo piano dedicated to healing and joyful passion. Tobin Mueller brings to his music a wide variety of experiences as an award-winning playwright, author, composer of children’s music, photographer, and collaborator on cross-genre projects, as well as his work on global environmental issues. He has released several CDs, but this is his first solo piano CD and his debut with SiMig Media Records, a label that promotes independent artists who do most of their recording in their home studios.
The CD opens with the title track, a freely-structured piece with a gentle complexity. “Just Above the Ground” has a light, anxious quality that never stops moving. The repetitive left hand creates an energetic rhythm for the right hand to dance around - interesting and engaging. “Between Breaths” also has a kind of nervous energy, but this one has short pauses between the running phrases to catch a breath. Joyful and exhilarating, Mueller is all over the piano with this one. I really like “Eruptions of Previous Life,” which is dark and edgy. The rhythmic left hand keeps returning to the deep bass of the piano with mysterious punctuation while the right hand alternates between chords and running phrases. “Cut Flowers” is much quieter. Not quite melodic in a traditional sense, the piece has a flowing sense of urgency. “I Sail On” combines modern classical with jazz, again bringing an edge to the music that is both purposeful and fun. “Waltzing Night Into Day” has a Baroque feeling to it while staying very contemporary. “A Lifetime Ago” is my favorite track. It begins as a free-form prelude with jazz chords and a Gershwin kind of influence. It explores several themes and then segues into a beautifully haunting theme that becomes more exploratory with the recognizable theme weaving in and out. At more than 8 1/2 minutes, this piece has plenty of room to evolve naturally and leisurely - I love it! “Under A Western Sky” opens as a lively, swirling piece of musical joy. The middle section calms and soothes, and then the opening theme returns is a slightly more subdued form that builds to its original vibrance.
“Morning Whispers” is a fascinating CD on several levels. It is not music that will stay in the background - it needs to be listened to - so if you enjoy original solo piano music with complexity and a bit of a challenge, this is a great CD to sink your musical teeth into. It is available from www.simig.com/records/artists/tobin/tobin.htm and cdbaby.com.
FIVE STARS. Recommended!
• Morning Whispers draft mixes available on Macjams
• Tobin’s Official Website
• Tobin’s MacJams profile
• Tobin on Simig Media Records (solo piano)
• Tobin on The Lost Records (folk fusion and prog)
• Tobin on iTunes
• Tobin on CDBaby