Tobin Mueller is a composer, playwright and interpretive pianist living in Connecticut. His musical compositions range from Jazz Fusion to Progressive Rock, Broadway musicals to Old-School Funk, Jamband classics to Classical ballet. In the late 1970s he was one of several composer-pianists who developed what became known as New Age music, although Tobin's style identifies more closely with complex modal/post-bop jazz. Mueller is a NYC Dramatist Guild playwright/lyricist, a member of ASCAP, and has appeared on over 35 albums.
2023 will see the release of several volumes from Mueller's highly anticipated Best Of Tobin Mueller series. Volume 1 includes his best original jazz ensemble & small combo recordings, all remastered, plus a few recordings never heard before. Volume 2 includes his best arrangements of Jazz/Fusion Classics, redefining standards. Volume 3 focuses on progressive rock & jazz fusion forays.
His 2022 release, a high energy jazz fusion collection, Prestidigitation, barely missed a Grammy nod. It's breakout single, "What Is Hip?", debuted at #5 on NACC radio chart. "Birdland/Long Distance Runaround", called "the best cover of 'Birdland' ever recorded" by All About Jazz, debuted at #8. The album reached #13 on the Jambands chart, #14 on the College Radio chart, and several tracks have made Spotify's Best Of 2022 playlist. An homage to the founders of jazz fusion, it is a follow-up to his 2018 2-Volume opus, Standard Deviations, which reached #16 on the FM Jazz Radio charts and #18 on Independent Radio. Both recordings feature Grammy-wining guitarist, Paul Nelson, who displays his progressive blues-funk-fusion chops with magical dexterity.
In between these two successes, Mueller released three well-reviewed albums: two in 2021 - Instead of Heaven, a solo piano album inspired by Greek myths, and Puzzle People, spoken word recordings that combine his music and award-winning poetry. In 2020 he released a double album, What Survives, featuring a 9-piece contemporary big band jazz ensemble. "One of the freshest and most sheerly entertaining, intriguing and exciting recordings I've come across," wrote Brad Walseth, Chicago Jazz. What Survives are jazz arrangements of original tunes from Mueller's Broadway musical "Creature" (1995-1998).
In addition to Paul Nelson, Tobin has recorded with Grammy winners Dave Brubeck, Ron Carter, Michael Hedges, Donny McCaslin (last collaborator with David Bowie), Jon Anderson (from Yes), Brian Welch ("Head" from Korn), as well as Grammy nominees Dane Richeson (Blue Note Records), Ken Schaphorst, Entcho Todorov, Janet Planet and more. His albums have included contributions from drummers Scott Rockenfield (Queensrÿche), Lamar Moore (Lettuce), Mike Nappi (J Geils Band) and countless other musicians from around the globe. Early in his career, he had the honor of playing with Maynard Ferguson.
Two standout jazz ensemble recordings add to Mueller's impressive catalog: Come In Funky (2014) featured bass legend Ron Carter. Eclectic and playful, the album incorporates a mix of old-school Big Band Funk and hip experimental duets between Mueller and Carter. The Muller's Wheel combined forces with saxophonist Woody Mankowski, including forays into fusion, funk, bebop, swing and contemporary jazz. "Consistently intriguing and colorful", states jazz historian Scott Yanow.“
One of the most innovative minds creating music today… I love that Mueller ignores all boundaries for musical genres in his music, juxtaposing jazz, blues, Broadway, prog rock, New Age, classical stylings… giving free reign to his vast experience and training along with an imagination that knows no limitations."
- Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano
Another acclaimed accomplishment is Mueller's 2019 released, WONDER, an original 28-track prog rock/fusion "tour de force. A masterpiece in the Epic Prog tradition” (Eric Harabadian, Progressive Magazine).
Mueller is best known as a solo pianist, however. He often pairs artwork and literature with his music. His latest project, Instead of Heaven (2021), is inspired by Greek myths. 13 Masks (2007) pairs each piece with an aristic mask representing different unconscious states. "An astonishing work of art," according to reviewer Kathy Parson. Afterwords, a 2017 Jazziz Critics' Choice, underscores great quotes from literature with original compositions. "Brilliant and thoughtful" writes Dodie Miller-Gould (Lemon Wire). "For those hearing of Mueller for the first time, this music serves as an insightful introduction to a body of work that is often as intellectually challenging as it is technically proficient."
One of his most noteable recordings is The Masterworks Trilogy, a 3-album 5-CD set that explores the interconnections between classical and jazz piano. Impressions of Water and Light pairs Mueller's reinterpretations of pieces by Debussy, Ravel and others with the artworks of Monet, Degas, Van Gough and more. Of Two Minds pays homage to Frédéric Chopin, pairing each piece with quotes by George Sand. Flow: The Music of J.S. Bach and Tobin Mueller uses Bach as a springboard to three original Suites for Piano. The Masterworks Trilogy achieved Fanfare Magazine's Critics' Choice Award.
The first half of his career was spent mainly writing classical ballet and musical theatre. Then, in 2005, he released his first solo piano album Morning Whispers and never turned back. His association with the stage brings a sense of storytelling to all of his work. "I imagine theatrical or cinematic scenes playing out during every music composition I write," he states.
Tobin comes from a musical family. His grandfather was a violinist for silent films. His mother was a jazz vocalist. He began accompanying her on piano when he was 14. In the 1990s Tobin moved from Wisconsin to New York City where his Off Broadway career took shape. Later, he would volunteer at Ground Zero, following the attack on 9/11/2001, and subsequently suffered lung damage. He no longer sings. "This makes me cherish the piano all the more," he states. (See the 2016 article Chopin and I: Music That Transcends.)
A prolific songwriter and arranger, he's released at least one album every year since 2005, many of them double albums. Please see a complete list of his available recordings. To get a taste of his stage musical output, see the compilation TOBIN MUELLER: Best of the CenterStage Years. If you are interested in his written word, check out his spoken word album featuring Gregory DelTufo: Puzzle People.
Tobin's works include jazz and progressive rock, solo piano compositions, musical theatre, film scores, ballets, symphonies, video game soundtracks and children's music. He has written lyrics, stage plays, fiction, political essays, poetry, philosophy, domestic humor, video game storylines, software and keyboard reviews. As a playwright, at least five of his musical dramas have been produced Off-Broadway, as well as performed on nearly every continent. He's sold his photographs to the hotel industry and his digital illustrations as part of his web design work. But he has always thought of himself as a composer, first and foremost.
"My happiest music is my Jazz ensemble recordings," Tobin writes. Rain Bather, a jazz ensemble recording, won the 2009 Midwest Jazz Album of the Year award (JazzChicago.net). Tobin's jazz recordings have been showcased regularly on the syndicated radio show "Expressions of Jazz" as well as dozens of regional FM stations across the country, NPR, I Heart Radio, Spotlight Recordings at All About Jazz, Deezer, Spotify, etc. Some of the most successful of these collaborations have been with L.A. saxophonist Woody Mankowski. One of their tracks from Come In Funky - "Beam Up the Funk" - was used as an intro piece on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (2014). Woody also plays tenor and soprano sax on some earlier non-jazz releases, including A Bit Of Light, If I Could Live Long Enough and Song of Myself.“
In each of these recordings Tobin Mueller proves his originality, his inquisitiveness as a musician and a thinker, and his fluid, full throttle energy as a pianist. One continually has the sense that the piano is Mueller’s alter ego, and when he sits down to play, to arrange, or to improvise, he is engaging in an exciting dialogue of discovery with his inner self."
- Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold, Fanfare Magazine
As a musical director, Tobin has conducted other people's scores as well, including "Jesus Christ Superstar", and performed in other people's shows, including "Into the Woods" and "Forever Plaid". Before moving to Manhattan, he toured CenterStage Theatre Troupe around the world, performing for diverse audiences, including many involved with UNEP, the environmental arm of the United Nations. His song "We Are the Ones" was the theme song for the 1992 UN International Youth Day Celebration held in Washington, D.C., and later became the theme song for C.A.P.E. (Children's Alliance for Protection of the Environment). "One of the highlights of my career was working with the United Nations and environmental NGOs during the late 80s and early 90s," Mueller writes. "In addition to writing environmental plays for youths, I helped plan international events that empowered youths in the worldwide environmental movement."
A lifelong environmentalist, Mueller was inducted into the United Nations’ 1994 Global 500 Roll of Honor in London for his work with UNEP and the world youth environment movement.
His song "Sweet Liberty" was played during the 1986 Statue of Liberty Centennial celebration. The song was later incorporated into his musical "Robin Hood and the Free People of the Forrest" (CenterStage, 1991) as well as the Off Broadway show "Freedom’s First Light" (music and lyrics by Tobin Mueller, book by Ed Medina, 1994).
As founder of ArtsForge - an online arts community dedicated to cross-genre collaborations (founded in 1998) - Tobin participated in expanding the power of the Internet to communicate across distances. ArtsForge collaborations resulted in many projects, including eBooks and video games. Check out some of these endeavors on Tobin's Writings page.
Mueller was also instrumental in developing the songwriting website MacJams.com which flourished from 2004-2009. He was it’s sole moderator and podcast director, engaged in daily discussions and tutorials about music composition and recording techniques, and created 168 original songs there. At its height, MacJams enjoyed more than 300,000 active members.
"The joys of my current life," Mueller writes, "have more to do with sitting in front of my grand piano and playing for my wife Suzanne after dinner." As he struggles with A1AD - the genetic lung and immunity disorder that threatens to shorten his life - private moments at the keyboard become more transcendent. "My wife inspires and nurtures everything I am able to accomplish." Tobin also has four grown children and four growing grandchildren.
Tobin Mueller is insanely talented and ridiculously prolific. He has made music across a range of instruments and genres. He is particularly interested in creating music in reference to other art forms. What drives him to create so much music?"
- Mick Theebs, Beat magazine / AlsoThat.com
Decades ago, he attended Marquette University (1977, the year they won the National Championship) and the University of Wisconsin (including the year they won the NCAA Hockey Championship), studying musical composition, physics and journalism. It appears he may well be a good luck charm, along with everything else.
United Nations’ Global 500 Roll of Honor, laureate,1994. INSTEAD OF HEAVEN (2021 Best of Year Pick) - MainlyPiano.com JAZZIZ Magazine's Critics' Choice: Afterwords (2017). Fanfare Magazine's Annual Critics Choice awards: Of Two Minds (2016), Flow (2015) Mainly Piano's Annual Favorite Picks: WONDER (2019), Standard Deviations (2018), Afterwords (2017), Of Two Minds (2016), Flow (2015). Album of the Year: Rain Bather, JazzChicago.net (2009). Wisconsin Association of Environmental Educator’s “Earthguard Award”, 1993. Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s “Environmental Excellence Award”, 1994.
Acoustic grand piano, B3 organ, Wurlitzer and Rhodes keyboards, DX7, ARP 2600, Planet, ES2, clavichords and Moog; celeste, dulcitone, harmonium, glockenspiel, tubular bells. Mueller also plays bass, employing a mix of Trilian acoustic, fretless and electric basses.