Keyboardist Tobin Mueller is back with his most eclectic instrumental release to date, a thirteen-stage carousel ride that straddles the boundaries lines of big band, folk, funk, fusion and even good ol' untampered-with jazz. The sound is so diverse, the production so impeccable that the first six tracks alone sound like four different acts. The first two pump it up in a big band format with saxophones, trumpet, flugelhorn, electric guitar and acoustic bass & drums cutting it up. Even Mueller's brother Chris busts a move on his acoustic grand. "Must Go Back" pares the roster down to the core quartet, and said brother blazes away Kikoski-style on the grand like a dust devil. With the everpresent hissing of Mueller's B3 organ beneath it all, the final cut has a lot in common with Barbara Dennerlein. "Caught In The Current" is a wonderfully pastoral serving of Windham Hill-styled contempo in the realm of Montreaux — really, even violinist Martyn Kember-Smith makes sure it's no coincidence.
From left-of-center, Tobin Mueller serves up an eight-minute foray into electric funk called "Windowshade." A duo track with saxman Woody Mankowski, the smokey organ and funkalicious synthbass recall Herbie Hancock's prime Thrust from '76. "Seven Buttons On A Nehru Jacket" plays out a tempter-and-temptee mini-drama with manic synth filter sweepery and the unsuspecting lilt of Sal Giorgianni's spritely flute. McBoy's pristine electric guitar work is a nice embellishment. Guest tenor saxophonist Doug Schneider steps in and Tobin lets Chris shine on the sultry "Waltzing Night Into Day." The B3 proves an excellent counterpoint for that sort of velvety piano-centric jazz. Then things get electric and hoppin' again on, er, "Acid Hopping." Electronic drums on this groover, not acoustic, though whether a program or drummer Dane Richeson is the man behind the grooves is uncertain. Either way, the rhythms are funky and slick and recall more Headhunters or even Material-type action.
If and when Tobin Mueller records the sequel to Rain Bather, this reviewer will be the first in line to get his ticket punched for mo' boppin' and groovin' — much to be loved by the jazz-funk aficionado lingers here. Extra kudos goes to Mueller for pressing the disc itself to resemble a black 45, grooves and all!
1. I Wanna Fly (2:20)
2. Cliff's Edge (7:34)
3. Must Go Back (6:46)
4. Lightning Strikes (3:49)
5. Caught In The Current (4:43)
6. Windowshade (8:23)
7. Secret Of Life (4:47)
8. Seven Buttons On A Nehru Jacket (4:43)
9. Waltzing Night Into Day (7:48)
10. Acid Hopping (6:24)
11. Finding No Path (8:37)
12. River Runs Through Me (6:57)
13. Last Song On Vaudeville (5:48)