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Tobin Mueller | 13 Masks

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13 MASKS Liner Notes & Artwork TOBIN MUELLER's official website

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Jazz: Free Jazz Avant Garde: Classical Avant-Garde Moods: Mood: Intellectual
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13 Masks

by Tobin Mueller

Jazz piano influenced by Twentieth Century music and Progressive Ragtime, full of whimsy and surprise.
Genre: Jazz: Free Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. You Make My Heart Skip A Beat
5:48 $0.89
2. The Gumshoe Wears A Rag
5:03 $0.89
3. Shadow Of Success
4:08 $0.89
4. Memories Of Elegance
5:53 $0.99
5. Stillness Of Wings
4:26 $0.89
6. Chaos Of The Subconcious
7:26 album only
7. Two Peas In A Chili Pod
4:35 $0.89
8. A Monk Caught In A Thelonious Sphere
3:57 $0.89
9. Chromatisome Swing
4:16 $0.89
10. Holding Breath With Ophelia
7:14 $0.89
11. Let Me Play With Those Horns, Amalthea
4:48 $0.89
12. I Sail On (into deeper waters)
6:06 $0.89
13. The Last Mask Falls Away
4:11 $0.89
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
13 MASKS is an interweaving of jazz, avant-garde classical, and what the composer has dubbed "Progressive Ragtime" solo piano. Blending each style through the "chaos of his subconscious," Mueller has created compelling musical stories. This collection is a whimsical departure from his earlier romantic and healing work, MORNING WHISPERS.

Mueller attaches one of 13 masks to each song, images that are fanciful, haunting, nightmarish, surreal. He creates music to match, emphasizing sly humor and surprise, intelligence and innovation. The results are breakthrough compositions combined with clean, intimate playing.

Several tracks standout as exceptionally entertaining. "A Monk Caught In The Thelonious Sphere" starts as a tribute to the great jazz-blues pianist (Thelonious Monk's middle name was Sphere), yet transforms into a tour de force of next-generation personality. Similarly, "Two Peas In A Chili Pod" begins as a smooth latin piece and by the end erupts with mind-blowing energy, transcending into something entirely undefinable. "I Sail On (into deeper waters)" begins in a tempestuous storm, then settles into a Brubeck-like groove that floats up and down deep sea waves, creating a visceral journey through countless time signatures. Playfulness is the main attribute of "Let Me Play With Those Horns, Amalthea," again sailing through almost every key signature available, although the final vamp borders on tongue-and-cheek pop.

Several of the tracks define a new sub-genre of music: Neo-Progressive Ragtime. "Gumshoe," "Chromatisome Swing" and "You Make My Heart Skip A Beat" (full of skipped beats and hints of romance) all include the sense of rag stylings, pushed to a new level of contemporary originality and harmonic bewilderment.

The longest track, "Chaos of the Subconscious," is the most classical (Twentieth Century) piece in the collection. It is a three movement sonata that, perhaps more than any other track, embodies the sense of nightmare and unfettered subconscious creation. But the soul of a jazz player bubbles up throughout, interrupting, reasserting, especially in the latter variations. Stunning.

The new age beauty of Mueller's earlier works shines through in two exquisite tunes: "Stillness Of Wings" and "Last Mask Falls Away." We are reminded how innocent and honest music can feel.

Mueller's musical theatre period is also represented. "Memories Of Elegance" and the tragic "Holding Breath With Ophelia" both evoke characters and story lines. "Shadows of Success" combines the quirkiness of Medeski with the urbanity of Gershwin. The breadth of styles Mueller is able to seamlessly shape into coherent music statements is a testament to his skill and cross-genre experience.

The playing on 13 MASKS is virtuosic. The recordings are recorded without excess reverb, making you feel as if you are standing aside the piano. Songs for the composer, musician or active listener looking for something new. You are reminded how powerful solo piano can be.



to write a review

Kathy Parsons

A Conceptual Work of Art.
“13 Masks” is Tobin Mueller’s follow-up to his 2005 release, “Morning Whispers.” Full of musical surprises, Mueller interweaves jazz, 20th century classical, “post-New Age solo piano,” and what Mueller calls “progressive ragtime,” and blends them through the “chaos of his subconsciousness.” (quotes from the liner notes) Mueller’s stories, told through the medium of solo piano, are often whimsical and funny, but this is no lightweight piece of entertainment. The music is complex and often challenging, but is not so esoteric to be intimidating. I found it fascinating the first time through, and enjoy it more each time I hear it. This is music for active listening, and most people will not find it relaxing, (it wasn’t intended to be). The cover artwork, also done by Mueller, depicts the thirteen masks of the title. Of those masks, Mueller explains: “More than masks that hide the truth, these are meant to be interior faces of the subconscious that whisper, lear (sic) and assert themselves in ways known and unknown.” I love these drawings and their variety of expressions. Tobin Mueller is obviously a very accomplished artist in many genres, but says the true highlights of his life have more to do with “sitting in front of my keyboard, all alone.”

“13 Masks” opens with “You Make My Heart Skip a Beat,” a lively and rhythmic piece that dances all over the piano. The middle section slows down and becomes more pensive, gradually building energy and intensity, returning to the original theme at the end. “The Gumshoe Wears a Rag” is a bit more playful (how could it not be with a title like that?), but is still quite intense. “Memories of Elegance” has a melodic theme that goes through many transformations and rhythmic treatments - fascinating! As its title implies, “The Stillness of Wings” is one of the quieter, more subdued pieces, and its primary theme has a light, engaging rhythm. “Chaos of the Subconscious” is a wild, frenetic ride that explores a variety of themes and ties them together as a kind of nightmare - another really amazing piece. “A Monk Caught in a Thelonious Sphere” is dark and bluesy, but still a lot of fun - one of my favorites. I also really like “Holding Breath With Ophelia,” which is more exploratory, venturing into different themes and rhythms, occasionally returning to the original. “I Sail On (Into Deeper Waters)” is quite chaotic and turbulent. “The Last Mask Falls Away” has a strong feeling of vulnerability and honesty. With quiet moments and occasional deep bass notes, nothing is covered up or embellished. It is a powerful conclusion to an amazing album.

Tobin Mueller has created a conceptual work of art with “13 Masks.” Not everyone will appreciate it, but if you enjoy a truly unique album with music to really sink your teeth into, give this a try. Recommended!