Tobin Mueller | Impressions of Water & Light

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Jazz: Piano Jazz Classical: Impressionism Moods: Solo Instrumental
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Impressions of Water & Light

by Tobin Mueller

Re-interpretations of Impressionist piano masterpieces, with Jazz and New Age overtones. Beautiful, genre-defying, inventive, original. You will never think of these pieces the same again.
Genre: Jazz: Piano Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Fantasy Girl With Flaxen Hair
4:16 $0.99
2. Leur Chanson Se Mêle Au Clair De Lune
5:30 $0.99
3. Dance for a Princess Gone
4:57 $0.99
4. River God At Play
6:26 $0.99
5. Le Petit Négre Variations
3:50 $0.99
6. Rêverie
6:48 $0.99
7. Tango Américaine
6:41 $0.99
8. Blue Prelude
4:48 $0.99
9. Pavane
4:24 $0.99
10. Golliwogg Is Steppin' Out
3:07 $0.99
11. A Giddy Girl's Fantasy
2:47 $0.99
12. Risen Cathedral
5:02 $0.99
13. Sitting With Satie: Conversation & Life
7:42 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
While playing a Jazz progression I was writing, struggling to decide on a melody, "Claire de Lune" kept whispering over the top. It made me think back to when I was a kid and loved listening to orchestrations of Debussy's piano works. Later, I learned how to play them, but was always mindful of the differences between the solo piano pieces and the arrangements for orchestra that were popular in the 1960s. I began playing "Claire de Lune" over my chords. The melody made me expand my chordal progression; the chords began to alter the melody.

Then an idea hit: Why not approach the music of the Impressionists as a contemporary Jazz musician? I could explore this connection as I lose myself in the music, spontaneously. Let myself find my own impressions, as if the written notes were light and my imagination was water…

Debussy was my grandfather's favorite composer; George Gershwin was my mother's. I have always thought of the two together, not only because of this personal connection, but also because there are many Jazz tendencies that find their harmonic roots in the Impressionist music of Debussy and others.

I thought this project would turn into a Jazz collection with Impressionist overtones, and some of these pieces are. But mostly I found myself forging a balance between Impressionism and Jazz, creating a Neo-Classical post-Impressionist hybrid. Some pieces sound like re-arrangements, familiar, yet with a new tonal setting. Some are fresh compositions that merely quote a few known passages. Some are theme and variations, as old and new duel, collaborate. All are Fantasies that explore the intimacy between Jazz and Impressionist music, between myself and my favorite composers. I hope you are able to go back to the originals, to reconnect with them; the contrast will heighten your enjoyment. I know I'll never hear them the same again.

The sections of music I've written are embedded within the songs that inspired them. Sometimes, I flip back and forth from the re-arranged score to outright original material, without announcing the change. On occasion, most listeners won't be able to tell. Other times, the break is apparent, intentionally. But, in both cases, the idea is for you to put yourself in my place, let the past and present flow together, experience how one informs the other, and share my sense of homage and creativity. This is one of my main goals.

I like to think of some Impressionist music as Pastoral pre-Jazz. Sophisticated modal harmonies and playful improvisation give shape to fluid dissonance, yet avoid the urban agitations and twentieth century displacements (syncopation) that energize much of modern jazz. Sensual music, mythic yet tactile. This poetic essence is what I've tried to illuminate in each of my interpretations, regardless of the genre they fall into.

Debussy has been called "the determining factor in the music of the 20th century because of the doors he opened and the restraints he cast aside." That is one of the reasons his works form the core of my explorations. The other reason is my love for his music.

Please consider purchasing the physical CD. The liner notes are extensive, mentioning the history of each piece as well as a description of each interpretation. Also, I've paired paintings of the era with each of the pieces to add one more layer of Impressionistic intrigue. The combination of music and art creates a synergy you may appreciate.



to write a review

John Stebbe

A gem
Tobin Mueller's latest album, "Impressions of Water and Light," is a pleasure. It's a collection of light classical piano music with Tobin's original music weaved in. The music is sometimes jazzy, sometimes classical and traditional sounding. A wide palette of musical textures await the listener. Beautifully recorded and performed with grace and freedom, this album will delight jazz and classical music fans. Perfect for background music at a dinner party, or digging in with headphones to hear how Tobin treats a variety of well-known impressionistic piano pieces by the likes of Debussy and Satie.

"Le Petit Négre Variations" is a favorite of mine. I love piano music that exploits the melodic possibilities of the lower end of the piano, while fireworks are happening on the high end.

"Pavane" is based on Fauré's well-known melody, and is lovingly executed here. Tobin allows the exquisite original melody to shine, while tastefully adding his own take on where this piece could go.

"Sitting With Satie: Conversation & Life" is the closer, and it's the piece you expect to hear after listening to such a sweet variety of impressionist pieces. The album would not be complete, it seems to me, without this treatment of Satie's minimalist gem, "Gymnopédie." Tobin takes Satie in new directions which would please the Frenchman, I can well imagine.

The album is not what you would call a toe-tapper ("Négre Variations" and "Golliwogg Is Steppin' Out" being the exceptions). It is highly reflective, introspective, and ruminative. If you're looking for Jerry Lee Lewis, you're not going to find him here (but I would not be surprised if Lewis would find a lot to like on this disc). Tobin's work sparkles like a finely-cut diamond, in many subtle and sophisticated ways. I am glad I own this album, and I think many others will feel the same.

Kathy Parsons

From MainlyPiano
A week ago, I was writing a review of Tobin Mueller’s hard-driving "Come In Funky" collaboration with Ron Carter and Woody Mankowski. Today I’m writing about "Impressions of Water and Light," Mueller’s jazz interpretations of the music of his favorite Impressionist composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I have mentioned before that Mueller is an artist who never fails to surprise - a true original - and that is certainly true of this album. Mueller isn’t the first musician to give classical music a jazz makeover, but he sought (and succeeded) to forge a balance between Impressionism and jazz in what he calls a “Neo-Classical post-Impressionist Pastoral Jazz hybrid.” Love it! Classical purists may find some of this music a bit jarring, but those who appreciate a fresh take on (mostly) familiar classics will be fascinated by Mueller’s exploration of the “intimacies” between jazz and Impressionism. The harmonies and discordances as well as the freer rhythms of Impressionist music were certainly a precursor to jazz and, in a way, Mueller is taking that early evolution several steps farther. Some of the pieces are arrangements of the originals while others are new songs that quote passages from the originals; a few are in a theme and variations format. The CD contains a gorgeous 12-page booklet that includes Mueller’s thoughts and intentions along with an Impressionist painting to illustrate each piece. It’s a very beautiful package!

Eight of the thirteen tracks are based on music by Debussy, two by Ravel, and one each by Faure, Carpenter, Ibert, and Satie (which also refers to Debussy). The first is based on “The Girl With the Flaxen Hair,” #8 of Debussy’s Preludes. Flowing and delicate with a jazzy edge, it’s a beautiful beginning. Next is an expressive take on Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” retitled “Leur chanson se mele au clair de lune (Their song mingles with the moonlight).” Some of the passages are played close to the original and others are given a new “impression” that is still recognizable. “Dance for a Princess Gone” is based on Ravel’s “Pavane pour une infante defunte.” Dark, mournful and very poignant, Mueller obviously has a strong personal connection to this piece. When I first started studying ragtime piano, I was surprised at how often Debussy was mentioned, and Mueller shows why with his interpretations of “Le Petit Negre” and “Golliwog’s Cakewalk.” In “The Petit Negre,” Mueller goes beyond ragtime and includes a boogie woogie section based on riffs used in Debussy’s original music. In “Golliwog is Steppin’ Out,” his playful side emerges with lighthearted left hand syncopation and a swinging melody - definitely a favorite! Debussy’s “Reverie” is played close to the original - dreamy and gently flowing. “Blue Prelude,” again based on a Debussy Prelude (#4), goes very dark and dramatic with some fascinating left hand passages in the deep bass of the piano. Faure’s “Pavane” is another favorite with the lyrical melody given a series of variations including Faure’s original piano version quoted in the final verse. Mueller closes with “Sitting with Satie: Conversation & Life,” a medley of Satie’s “Trois Gymnopedies” and “Gnossienne,” Debussy’s 6th Prelude, and Mueller’s own music. Mueller uses extra reverb to give the piece a sense of space and openness in homage to Satie. It’s a fascinating piece and a great way to end this exceptional album. Recommended!

Paul F. Page, composer

Musical Impressionism found its first bona fide expression in the late 19th century, a gentle extension of the heart so prevalent in the music of the middle Romantics. The genre has fascinated for well over a century, influencing every musician who has sought to paint the world in color and shadow, to depict sensory images with just sound, to re-present reality through swaths of sometimes contradictory impulses that often overlap in an intrigue of counterpoint and melody and unpredictable harmony.

Tobin Mueller’s new CD “Impressions of Water and Light” takes Impressionists Debussy, Ravel, Faure, et al on a journey through a new language he has created: jazz impressionism. No stranger to contemporary jazz forms, Mueller takes on the challenge of the much-revered masters, choosing some of their original works and displaying them through the lens of his considerable jazz imagination, in the end creating distinctively new compositions that fairly bubble with the joy of his hearing the old chestnuts in a completely new and unique way. The listener is confronted with Mueller’s formidable jazz understanding and impressive skills at the keyboard as he explores this familiar territory and takes us on a surprising new journey.

Mueller’s “impression” of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” is a lovely tribute, carefully imagined and played, with exceptional piano work in every way that allows the original melody to sing clearly through new harmonies…Ravel’s famous “Pavane for a Dead Princess” follows with exquisite detail and such a gentle touch, perfectly blending impressionism with the insight of a versatile contemporary jazz pianist.

“River God At Play,” explores the delicate high range of the piano in cascading arpeggios and delightfully impish leaps, controlled, but convincing, and infused with a jazz flair that sparkles with light and crystal.

Tobin Mueller fans, old and new, will surely delight in his boogie woogie version of Debussy’s “Le Petit Negre Variations” as well as “Golliwogg Is Steppin’ Out,” a bit of an outrageous take on the original tune that takes the listener on a little journey uptown. Just pure fun.

Among the 13 tracks on this CD, Faure’s own “Pavane” is perhaps the clearest example of “Water and Light” infused with delicate jazz imagery. Mueller’s timing and touch are no more perfectly balanced than on this particular track. Such shading and delicate playing are delightful as this marvelous interpretation plays itself out through contemporary jazz chording and unresolved cadences.

“Impressions of Water and Light” is an impressive and thoughtful concept album, carefully considered, beautifully played, and attentively mixed. It can easily stand proudly with the original compositions, in fact allowing them to breathe new life through a new prism of understanding, absolutely extending impressions of the heart and, through such creative re-imagining, allowing their soul to sing once more.