Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rob Mullins True RME 2012


True is a most fitting title for a release that embraces the visionary work and technical prowess of one of the finest if not occasionally overlooked pianists in modern jazz.
Brent Black / @CriticalJazz

Rob Mullins has no "wheelhouse" to speak of. Most pianists find that one niche and tend to settle in for as long as their career holds out. Mullins is blessed with a virtuoso talent that much like a good chess player allows him the freedom to play measures and even genres ahead of his contemporaries. Sophisticated jazz harmonies, colorful changes and an effortless flow with perhaps the best right hand in the game, Rob Mullins brings his prolific talent to the live recording of True at the Dazzle Jazz Club in his hometown of Denver, Colorado. A snapshot of a moment in time embracing a contemporary approach to the straight ahead swing that is the Mullins calling card.

Opening with "Rock Paper Scissors" this vibrant Mullins composition seeks out a musical happy place with the lyrical intensity of an Oscar Peterson tune combined with a smoldering Horace Silver approach to set the table for an intriguing if not intoxicating sonic smorgasbord of delight. In scanning the disc before review the obvious "what tune doesn't belong in this set list" question had to be, can Mullins actually make Sonata Pathetique Movement II composed by Beethoven and arranged by Rob Mullins work? In a word, yes! Colors you can hear as Mullins paints from a rich color palette with broad and incredibly well defined strokes. One would be remiss if not mentioning the other members of this phenomenal 4tet. Joe Anderies on saxes and alto flute along with Bijoux Barbosa on upright bass and Mike Marlier on drums round out this unique jazz collective where Mullins is the obvious leader but the group dynamic is never lost in the shuffle. True is the title track and a soulful and soul filled romp reminiscent of classic Ramsey Lewis while remaining straight up Rob Mullins every step of the way. This vibrant pulse is personified with the engaging call and response type give and take between Mullins and and tenor man Anderies. When this 4tet stretches out the lyrical intensity never dies or falls flat as harmonics shift and dynamics are adjusted this ensemble seems to feed off itself while pushing each other and Mullins to heights higher than one previously imagined.

There is a conceptual nature or perhaps a conceptual wish of hoping the listener finds what is "True" for themselves. Rob Mullins is clearly an artist comfortable with his lot in life, where he has been and more importantly where he is going. Instead of taking the easy path of nine covers that would encompass the usual suspects, Mullins treats the audience to nine original compositions with many sounding like standards simply biding their time in the on deck circle.

True is a masterclass for young pianists and a most engaging and entertaining release on just about any level one could imagine. No critic can cover all releases in a given year, this was one that sadly slipped past me. Better late than never!

Rob Mullins is my musical easy button:

Tracks: Rock Paper Scissors; Sonata Pathetique Movement II; Sixth Gear; My One True Love; TRUE; See Jane Run; Escher's Etude (Live Quartet Version); Nightside (formerly Very Blue); Goodbye Sun.

Personnel: Rob Mullins: piano, composer, MC; Joe Anderies: saxes and alto flute; Bijoux Barbosa: upright bass; Mike Marlier: drums