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Tobin Mueller | Midwinter Born

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TOBIN MUELLER's Official Website MIDWINTER BORN Liner Notes & Song Histories

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Holiday: Jazz Jazz: Crossover Jazz Moods: Featuring Piano
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Midwinter Born

by Tobin Mueller

A collection of jazz reinterpretations of traditional Christmas carols for solo piano. Mueller captures the quiet simplicity, expectant playfulness, and over-riding joy of the season. Destined to become your favorite Christmas album.
Genre: Holiday: Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. The First Noël
4:23 $0.89
2. Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella
2:54 $0.89
3. I Saw Three Ships (Come Sailing In)
3:08 $0.89
4. Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
4:49 $0.89
5. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Take Five)
4:05 $0.89
6. Carol of the Bells
1:29 $0.89
7. Cantique De Noel (O Holy Night)
3:49 $0.89
8. Veni, Veni Immanuel (Come, Come Messiah)
1:12 $0.89
9. Good King Wenceslas Comes a-Wassailing, Pt. 1
2:53 $0.89
10. Good King Wenceslas Comes a-Wassailing, Pt. 2
3:55 $0.89
11. O Little Town of Bethlehem
2:02 $0.89
12. Joy to the World (Mary's Perspective)
1:30 $0.89
13. O Tannenbaum (With Wind in the Branches)
4:14 $0.89
14. Ding Dong Meriily On High (Le Branle De I'official)
3:25 $0.89
15. Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming / In the Bleak Midwinter
3:01 $0.89
16. Still, Still, Still/It Camp Upon a Midnight Clear
4:18 $0.89
17. Stille Nachte, Helige Nacht (Silent Night)
4:53 $0.89
18. Toyland Fantasy (Bonus Track)
4:20 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Tobin Mueller’s “Midwinter Born” is a collection of jazz reinterpretations of traditional Christmas carols for solo piano. Mueller captures the quiet simplicity, expectant playfulness, and over-riding joy of the season. These songs will delight and surprise, move you and soothe you. “Midwinter Born” is destined to become one of your favorite annual Christmas albums.

Mueller’s playing style ranges from New Age to Neo-classical, modal jazz to honky tonk. The wonder of Christmas unfolds as he takes you on a yuletide journey through his musical imagination. Although Mueller approaches the music with a thoroughly modern mindset, the ancient quality of these melodies is never lost, as if each new twist adds one more layer of respect for the historical roots of each phrase.

As Mueller puts it, “Being born in winter, as was I, provides an instinctual desire for finding and cherishing warmth…” Warmth and wonder abound in this collection of unique interpretations. Each song is a gift.

The collection begins simply. A right hand ostinato evokes the crystalline cold and shining beauty of midwinter evenings. When the graceful melody of “The First Noël” is stated in the left hand, without ornament, the spirit of Christmas is unleashed. It sets the framework for the album. Even as the arrangements become far more complex, the idea of simple joy is never lost. Influence as wide ranging as Bill Evans and Dave Brubeck, Leon Russell and Rick Wakeman can be heard.

“Few songs are more loved than the carols of Christmas” Mueller writes. “Most of us have memorized dozens, yet, for the most part, we have no idea who wrote them. Many were small town church organists or anonymous composers whose tunes predate the addition of lyrics that made them into Christmastime carols. Almost none of these composers and poets lived to know how popular their work would become.” Tobin has dedicate this album to them. And to his mother, who passed along her love of this music and time of year, and, as Mueller notes, “never lost her willingness to toil in anonymity as a singer and arranger.” To this end, Mueller has provided extensive notes about the history of each song on his website, tobinmueller.com. Please check it out.

If you enjoy this Christmas collection, look into Mueller’s earlier solo piano recordings, “13 Masks” and “Morning Whispers.” You will not be disappointed!



to write a review

Kathy Parsons

From MainlyPiano
Tobin Mueller's "Midwinter Born" is one of the most original solo piano Christmas albums I've ever heard. Using a broad mix of musical styles - usually more jazz than new age but impossible to classify - Mueller puts a very personal spin on a collection of eighteen songs of the season that includes several medleys. From the gorgeous cover artwork to the extended liner notes on Mueller's website, this project was very lovingly created as a personal expression of the joy and meaning of the Christmas holidays. Most of the carols in this collection originated in Europe and are familiar - none of them include Santa, Rudolph or Frosty. If you are shopping for a singalong album, this one probably won't do it for you, but if you are looking for a different interpretation of Christmas songs that is bright and mostly upbeat, be sure to check this one out!

"Midwinter Born" begins with "The First Noel." Mueller's arrangement is distinctive with the melody played very simply in the upper bass clef and a sparkling ostinato right hand that dances as it emulates the cold and shining beauty of midwinter evenings; the last verse is a gentle expression of love and tenderness. "Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella" is playful and carefree. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" is arranged in what Mueller calls a "more solemn New Age jazz-blues universe" - a dark yet fanciful interpretation that really works. One of the biggest surprises is "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" played with a Dave Brubeck-inspired "Take Five" rhythm. I'm always amazed at how well this song (GRYMG) adapts to almost any musical treatment, and this one blows me away - mostly because it works so incredibly well! Mueller calls his arrangement of "O Holy Night" "a moody modal soft shoe reverie" and it is a really different, fascinating interpretation. "Veni, Veni Immanuel" is set to a driving one-note beat, expressing the energy required and fun one can have while searching the Messiah. "Good King Wenceslas Comes A-wassailing" is a two-part medley that is often buoyant and jazzy as it tells of the kindness of a king and of beggars and orphans dancing in the snowy streets hoping for warmth and treats. In "Joy To The World," Mueller tells the story of Christ's birth from Mary's perspective, hinting at the tragedy that would come later. The medley of "Still, Still, Still" and "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" creates feelings of quiet and peacefulness; Mueller's improvisation in the middle reaches into the depths of the night sky. The album closes with a bonus track called "Toyland Fantasy" that was recorded several years ago with Mueller on synths, Moog, organ, and bass and Jim Edwards on electric guitar. Segments of several songs are included, wrapped in colorful spirits and festive ribbons of sound.

"Midwinter Born" is a great choice for those looking for a really different and creative Christmas album. Cheers!

Jim Edwards

Great Christmas Album!
Having been a contributor to this album, I have every motivation to pump sunshine, but I'm not going to do that. I can assure you that this is an honest review, since the only track I had heard previous to receiving my copy was "Toyland Fantasy", the track I contributed to. However, after having heard the rest of the album, it has quickly become probably one of my two favorite Christmas albums (along with Gladly Playe Wyth Stryngs' "Glad Tydings", also available here). Everything sounds very well-played and very well-produced (which is pretty obvious, because he actually made me sound good, which is no small feat *grin*).

Anyway, this album is well worth the eleven bucks.

And to Kathy Parsons, thanks for the vote of confidence. *wink*