Tobin Mueller – Rain Bather

Tobin Mueller
Rain Bather
Tobin Mueller – 2008

Combining outstanding players in a variety of settings, RAIN BATHER captures fabulous performances on this extra long play CD. A breadth of styles find play within these totally hip arrangements of Tobin Mueller’s innovative compositions.

Many of these tunes are jazz renditions of songs from Tobin’s Broadway show Creature (based on Frankenstein). The instensity of storytelling remains active in the arrangements, as well as the singable lyricism of each intertwining melody. These recordings transcend the original songs, however, living and breathing as completely unique jazz performances. As Dr. Frankenstein would say, this music breathes… is truly alive!

RAIN BATHER moves adroitly between contemporary jazz, progressive big band, fusion, acid and funk. Three tracks (1, 2, 4) employ a progressive octet; two tracks use a septet (8, 10). The rest of the tracks build on a core quartet of organ, piano, drums and bass, adding in one or two extras voices (sax, trumpet, flute, clarinet and/or violin), forging an ever-changing variety of colors and tones.

As front man to a fluid octet (see ensemble below), Tobin’s progressive rock organ (AUDIOCRACY) fits perfectly into these jazz settings, providing sagacious accompaniment and melodic direction, but never dominating. Tobin’s nephew, Chris, provides elegant acoustic piano accompaniments and solid arranging, with plenty of space for memorable improvisations and solos.

There are so many great moments on this 80 minute extended play CD, but a shout out has to go to Woody Mankowski’s astounding soprano sax solo in Cliff’s Edge, his multi-sax layering in Windowshade; the retro-acid tripping flute solos of Sal Giorgianni especially in Seven Buttons On A Nehru Jacket; and the old school clarinet stylings of Bill Barner in Secret Of Life and Last Song On Vaudeville. Carl Fischer’s trumpet solos in Acid Hopping absolutely groove, employing a whole collection of mutes and plungers. Martyn Kember-Smith’s celtic fiddle provides a perfect change of pace in Caught In The Current. (Several of these players also appear on Tobin’s solo album A BIT OF LIGHT.)

Although most of the album is hard-driving and up tempo, two mellow ballads include breathtaking sax solos: River Runs Through Me (Woody Mankowski on soprano) and Waltzing Night Into Day (Doug Schneider on tenor). The interplay between piano and organ in Must Go Back also deserves a special mention. Through it all, Dane Richeson’s percussion permeates and exults; his years studying everywhere from Paris to the Sudan come into play. The drum solo in Finding No Path is particularly good.

THE ENSEMBLE: (see below for players per track)

Tobin Mueller – B3 organ, electric piano, composer
Chris Mueller – acoustic piano
Jeff Cox – acoustic bass
Dane Richeson – drums & percussion
Woody Mankowski – soprano saxophone
Tom Washatka – tenor saxophone
Doug Schneider – tenor sax
Ken Schaphorst – flugelhorn
Bob Levy – trumpet
Sal Giorgianni – flute
Bill Barner – clarinet, additional sax
McBoy – electric guitars

RAIN BATHER track list (80 minutes running time)

I Wanna Fly (2:20)*
Cliff’s Edge (7:34)*
Must Go Back (6:46)*
Lightning Strikes (3:49)*
Caught In The Current (4:43)*
Windowshade (8:23)
Secret of Life (4:47)*
Seven Buttons On A Nehru Jacket (4:43)
Waltzing Night Into Day (7:48)*
Acid Hopping (6:24)
Finding No Path (8:37)*
River Runs Through Me (6:57)
Last Song On Vaudeville (5:48)