Tobin Mueller | Flow: The Music of J. S. Bach and Tobin Mueller

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Flow: The Music of J. S. Bach and Tobin Mueller

by Tobin Mueller

Double album featuring Mueller's solo piano reinterpretations of J.S. Bach's greatest hits (Disc 1) plus two original jazz piano suites by Mueller (Disc 2). Inventive, playful, joyous, beautiful, full of emotion and intelligence.
Genre: Jazz: Piano Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Joy (Of Man's Desiring)
Tobin Mueller
5:22 $0.99
2. Well-Aged Bouree: Youthful Beret (Bouree in E Minor)
Tobin Mueller
5:37 $0.99
3. Reinvention No. 13 (Two-Part Invention No. 13)
Tobin Mueller
1:48 $0.99
4. Well-Tempered Prelude No. 3 and Me (Prelude No. 3 in C# Minor)
Tobin Mueller
3:20 $0.99
5. Double Fantasia and Fugue (In G Minor)
Tobin Mueller
6:54 $0.99
6. First Starfield (Prelude No. 1 in C Major)
Tobin Mueller
2:26 $0.99
7. In Anna Magdalena's Hands (Cello Suite No. 1)
Tobin Mueller
3:20 $0.99
8. Leopold's Short Life (Prelude / Fugue No. 2 in C Minor)
Tobin Mueller
4:48 $0.99
9. Sleepers Awake
Tobin Mueller
3:09 $0.99
10. The Clown Dances and Dreams (Fugue No. 7: Prelude / Fugue No. 4)
Tobin Mueller
7:28 $0.99
11. Bach On Vaudeville (Two-Part Invention No. 8 in F Major)
Tobin Mueller
2:53 $0.99
12. Bach Backstage (Two-Part Invention No. 9 in F Minor)
Tobin Mueller
1:30 $0.99
13. Night At the Theatre (Minuet in G)
Tobin Mueller
5:06 $0.99
14. Air
Tobin Mueller
5:32 $0.99
15. Encore and Amen (Prelude No. 21 in G Minor)
Tobin Mueller
2:56 $0.99
16. Tide Pools
Tobin Mueller
5:18 $0.99
17. Momentary Undertow
Tobin Mueller
3:44 $0.99
18. Yin and Yang
Tobin Mueller
5:18 $0.99
19. Salmon Ladder Variations
Tobin Mueller
3:12 $0.99
20. Bird in Migration
Tobin Mueller
2:23 $0.99
21. Curved Surfaces
Tobin Mueller
3:10 $0.99
22. River Ice
Tobin Mueller
5:32 $0.99
23. Ghostly Bells (Of Independence)
Tobin Mueller
6:14 album only
24. Lighthouse
Tobin Mueller
4:24 $0.99
25. Train (Summer Tango)
Tobin Mueller
3:48 $0.99
26. Nor'easter
Tobin Mueller
5:08 $0.99
27. Berkshire Shadows
Tobin Mueller
4:20 $0.99
28. One Body of Man, A Duet
6:44 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
REVIEW by Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold (April 29, 2015)

Tobin Mueller’s latest double CD, "Flow: The Music of J.S. Bach and Tobin Mueller", may be his most ambitious and sophisticated recording project to date. Continuing the concept he initiated in his "Impressions of Water and Light", where he performed original arrangements, variations, and new compositions based on the works of Ravel, Debussy, and other Impressionist masters, "Flow" uses the protean output of Johann Sebastian Bach as its core inspiration, and lets the Baroque master lead Mueller as a composer and pianist into a journey of re-interpretation and new creation – a journey that inevitably explores the interactions of Baroque and Jazz.

In the fifteen tracks of Disc One, Mueller plays his own piano arrangements and interpretations of Bach’s music, discovering in the eighteenth century genius not only the precision and grace of his compositional structures, but also deconstructing these harmonies and melodies in order to penetrate their inner life, and then letting that spark carry him to another place in his own artistic soul. Disc Two features two original suites for piano (and a bonus track piano duet from his 1998 musical "Creature") that are the result, the composer tells us, of spending half a year immersed in Bach’s music and in the study of his piano suites, as well as the Goldberg Variations. Despite the compositorial lessons Bach may have offered Mueller, these two works stand majestically on their own, addressing the listener in an idiom that at once is classic and modern.

In listening to Mueller’s interpretations of Bach’s own music, one is struck not only by his skill as a pianist, but by his comprehensive grasp of Bach’s form and structure; for only with such a complete understanding as his foundation, can Mueller dare to embark on his own “takes” on these classics. Highlights of the first disc are many. The rhythmically varied interpretation of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, "Joy", which opens the collection, serves as an overture to what follows. "First Starfield", derived from Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C Major, is a beautiful re-imagining of Bach’s melody using parallel fifths under and over Bach’s line and subtly shifting the downbeat midway through the piece. "In Anna Magdalena’s Hands" is a take on the Prelude of Bach’s Cello Suite #1, which recreates for the piano the lush, romantic chordal line of the unaccompanied cello in the original. "Leopold’s Short Life" (based on Prelude and Fugue # 2 in CMinor) is arranged as a big band piece which evocatively suggests the transience of life and the inexorable ticking of time, while "Sleepers Awake" is set down as a dialogue between right and left hands, between the voice calling the sleeper to consciousness and the Jazz groove of the baseline. "Night at the Theatre" constitutes Mueller’s interpretation of Minuet in G, (a work now commonly ascribed to Christian Petzold, but still associated with Bach through his wife’s notebook) in which he begins in a Broadway idiom and shifts to an eloquent and contemplative kind of soliloquy. Finally, the first CD ends with "Encore and Amen", a virtuoso tribute to what Mueller calls “the energy of an [Bach’s] infinite mind,” before it solemnly concludes in a reverential “amen.”

The second disc contains two suites for piano, each in six movements. The first, entitled "Suite: Flow", explores the concept of ebbing and flowing energy mirrored in the rhythms of nature from tidal waters to migrating birds, and salmon swimming upstream. While Bach may have been Mueller’s departure point, there are a great many other influences which can be heard coalescing in the rich musical language of the work, among them the transparent and limpid harmonies of Impressionism. "Flow" begins with a slow first movement, “Tide Pools,” in which the rippling waters and receding eddies are reflected in the elusive chords. “Momentary Undertow” continues in slow tempo using arpeggios to evoke the circular flow and the eventual ascending pull. The third movement, “Yin and Yang,” is a light textured synthesis of two styles of playing, juxtaposing and integrating chords and arpeggios. “Salmon Ladder Variations” offers a marriage of Thelonius Monk and J.S. Bach in which short repeating figures suggest the fish ascending the ladder and slipping back, yet never abandoning their intense drive to procreate. “Birds in Migration,” the fifth movement which blends Charlie Parker with Blues and Bop improvisation, depicts the bold flight of the birds as an expression of freedom. The suite ends with “Curved Surfaces,” varying the melody of the first movement and using a waltz tempo to reference the dance-like gigues that ended Bach’s French suites.

In his "New England Suite", also in six movements, Mueller meditates on the passage of the seasons and the cyclical forces of nature which flow through the universe with musical majesty. “River Ice” with its dark, repetitive chords that color the opening movement with a hint of Native-American roots, evokes the crystalline sparkle of the ice breaking up and reshaping itself. “Ghostly Bells (of Independence)” with its changing keys and tempi recalls the bells that have tolled throughout New England’s history, the varying pitches beautifully captured in the melody with the pure, clarion peeling at the end of the movement an intimation of approaching spring. “Lighthouse” introduces a sense of renewal, its bookended sections in waltz-time, with a middle section reference to Bach’s Well-Tempered Klavier #4. “Train” becomes a metaphor for summer with its allusion to the romance of the road; Mueller’s walking bass in the left hand signifies the continuum, while his right punctuates that with the sound of a train whistle and the suggestion of stops along the way. Movement five, “Nor’easter” conjures up the gently pelting rain on windowpanes and roofs in early autumn with a delicate, lulling quietude before seguing into the final movement, “Berkshire Shadows,” that pulsates with a gentle maturity and restful vigor. There is just a whiff of Ives here, as there is in the first movement, as well as the lush resonance of a description of the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” in John Keats’ “Ode to Autumn” before the suite ends on a gentle upward progression that is as much question as statement.

In addition to the pleasures of these imaginative interpretations and compositions, Mueller offers the listener a memorable acoustic experience and an attractively packaged visual one. The sound is rounded, subtle, intimate, and captures all the nuances of the artist in conversation with his piano and with his inspirations. The two CDs (with a generous 121 minutes of music) are accompanied by an informative sixteen-page booklet, handsomely illustrated with artwork. Mueller, who is an accomplished writer as well as musician, offers well-articulated insights into the pieces and invites the listener to embark with him on an exciting voyage.

"Flow" takes the listener on a complex and profound journey. On one level, these are works which require thought and comprehension - a knowledge of the Bach’s originals - but on another level, they exist in their own unique realm to be heard, absorbed, and experienced in the flow of the moment. And that intangibility, that ephemerality is precisely their genius. Mueller’s compositions are firmly grounded in an impressive musical technique and far-reaching understanding of past idioms, at the same time that they are bold, sometimes playful, often rebellious excursions into uncharted territory. The gift that "Flow" bestows on the listener is the insight into the dialectical truth that from form comes freedom.
-Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold


FLOW is an exploration of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and how his music affects my own playing and compositions. Just as Mueller did with Claude Debussy and other Impressionists in "Impressions of Water & Light," Mueller transforms these Baroque masterpieces with his unique arrangements. With this album, however, he does more, adding a second disc of his own original music, showing the influence Bach has had on his own compositional style.

Disc One (tracks 1-15) features Jazz-influenced interpretations of well-known Bach pieces.Disc Two (tracks 16-28) includes two original suites for piano written after working through the Bach repertoire.

FLOW is one part homage and one part internal romance. New Age, Neo-Classical, Modal Jazz, Impressionism, Musical Theatre and Baroque all combined during the evolutionary process of arranging and recording. Fall in love again with the music of Bach as you enjoy these new perspectives.

Flow, as a psychological concept, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus and enjoyment. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. There is a constant forward motion to Bach's music, a sense of infinity in each detailed variation and fugue, as if every note is precious and no amount of improvisation will ever exhaust the possibilities his motifs can generate. If there is music that serves as a metaphor for the ecstacy of flow, it is Bach's.

Mueller embraces the sense of timelessness one achieves when in the state of flow, bridging the centuries and letting Bach's 300 year old manuscripts inspire through new expression and joy at the piano.

There is a marvelous tradition of reinterpreting Bach: from the orchestral transcriptions of Esa-Pekka Salonen to Wendy Carlos' electronically enhanced Switched On Bach; from the a cappella vocals of the Swingle Singers to the throaty saxophone of Yasuaki Shimizu; from Jethro Tull's progressive rock flute Bourée to Jacques Loussier's consumate jazz piano combo, Bach to Bach Trio. There are many, many fabulous musicians who have reimagined Bach's music (Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck E. Power Biggs). Like them, Mueller pays tribute to Bach's magnificent legacy as he displays his enduring power of inspiration.

NOTE: The CD Package includes a 16-page booklet with extensive liner notes and marvelous artwork. The special CDBaby price of $16.85 for the physical CD reflects Bach's year of birth.



to write a review

Thor Oliversen

Flowing playfully
If you need to log off from the internet and all that keeps you from relaxing and being in the present - then this is good medicine! Tobin is approaching the music of J. S. Bach respectfully, but also with a genuin playful refreshing approach, adding his tasteful original touches.

I generally don't listen much to solo instrumentals, but find this album to be something I would like to have playing while I'm working, or when I need to calm my mind.

There are so many beautiful details in his piano playing, and as mentioned earlier, the playfulness gets the good feelings flowing.

No need to force things - go with the flow, and for a while, be in the place where no action is needed.

Terry L. Pearson

This is a truly enjoyable CD set! As a musician, I’ve learned to spot quality in music, but have been intimidated by jazz in any form. With “Flow”, Tobin Mueller has broken down that wall by sneaking in through the door of my affinity for the classics. His variations and reinventions of Bach in the first CD are very inviting, warm and comfortable, and I was gently ushered into the second CD with Tobin’s original compositions, and the experience was one of delight. Tobin’s creativity shines in this as well, and his arrangements carry you smoothly through colorfully nuanced musical adventures. Being new to this genre, Tobin’s creations showed me the potential it had for many different styles. The melodies and well-placed notes make for one enjoyable ride!
Flow will remain in my stack of favorites for some time to come, and I recommend it to all, no matter what your usual listening pleasures may be.

Kathy Parsons

From MainlyPiano
"Flow: The Music of J.S. Bach and Tobin Mueller" is another very ambitious project from one of the most creative musical minds out there, Tobin Mueller. His first two-disc set, Disc 1 contains fifteen solo piano interpretations/arrangements of some of Bach’s best-known pieces, and Disc 2 is a set of two original suites composed to demonstrate how Bach’s music has influenced Mueller and his own music. Disc 2 also contains a bonus track, bringing that total up to thirteen piano solos. Bach is perhaps the greatest composer who ever lived and he continues to be a favorite among many jazz musicians as well as classical music aficionados. All of the music on Disc 1 is recognizable, and even though most of the interpretations have very strong jazz elements, my feeling is that Bach would strongly approve of Mueller’s creations. The CD set also contains a 16-page booklet that provides an historical perspective on Bach’s life and music as well as Mueller’s explanations of his creative processes. In addition to all of that, the artwork, also by Mueller, further provides spirited and colorful illustrations to accompany the music. It’s a beautiful package and the music provides a unique listening experience that is sometimes a bit challenging but always very enjoyable.

I always find it fascinating to hear how composers interpret classical music, giving well-known nuggets a new spin. Mueller did this exceptionally well with his previous album, "Impressions of Water & Light," which was a look at Claude Debussy and other composers of the Impressionist period. Flow is a brilliant second part to a promised three-part series which will include the music of Chopin in the future. I love that Mueller ignored all boundaries for musical genres in this music, juxtaposing modal jazz, blues, Broadway, prog rock, and new age (and others) with classical stylings, giving free reign to his vast experience and training along with an imagination that knows no limitations. My favorites on Disc 1 include “Reinvention No. 13,” a playful a take on Bach’s Two-Part Invention #13; “Double Fantasia and Fugue in Gm,” a dark bluesy arrangement that feels just right; “In Anna Magdalena’s Hands (Cello Suite #1, Prelude),” a beautiful tribute to Bach’s second wife who transcribed much of his music; “Leopold’s Short Life: A Prelude and Fugue,” based on Prelude and Fugue #2 in C Minor, arranged as a Big Band piece that has a real swing; “Bach on Vaudeville (Two-Part Invention #8 in F), again very playful and full of fun; and “Air,” based on “Air on the G String,” a slow, pensive interpretation arranged in a set of variations that incorporate a number of jazz styles.

Disc 2 contains two 6-part suites - “Flow” and “New England Suite” - as well as the bonus track from Mueller’s 1996 musical, Creature. It doesn’t seem likely that a listener stumbling upon any of these pieces would hear an immediate connection to Bach’s music, but Mueller explains in the liner notes (also available on his site) which ideas he was exploring as he composed this music. Much more jazz-oriented than classical, the rich, complex harmonies and inventive rhythms go in a lot of unexpected directions that keep the music consistently interesting as well as fun to listen to. I especially like “Tide Pools,” “Bird in Migration,” “Lighthouse,” and “Train (Summer Tango).” The bonus track, “One Body of Man, a duet” was recorded live in 1998 and is a series of variations on a theme from Mueller’s off-Broadway musical, Creature, which is based on the Frankenstein story. Upbeat straight-ahead jazz, the piece really rocks and closes this impressive album with a great big grin.

All of Tobin Mueller’s albums are very different from each other, so if you are not familiar with his music or have only heard one album, check this one out! If you have his entire collection, this one will not duplicate anything previously recorded! Very highly recommended for a one-of-a-kind listening experience!

Bill Barner

I’ve been listening to Tobin Mueller’s new solo piano 2-CD album “Flow: the music of J.S. Bach and Tobin Mueller” the past few days. Like last year’s “Impressions of water and light”--where Tobin rearranged and improvised on well-known pieces by Debussy, Ravel, etc.--on disc 1 of “Flow” he does his own jazz-influenced thing with Bach melodies. On disc 2 you find two suites composed by Tobin and inspired by Bach. None of the 2 hours of music on these CDs sounds like imitation Baroque. Rather, “Flow” carves out a niche somewhere between classical, jazz, and new age music. Many musicians have arranged, reinterpreted, or reimagined Bach. (One of my favorites is trumpeter Jack Walrath’s version of “Wachet auf” called “Wake up and wash it off!”) But, this recording is unique and quite enjoyable.