Tommy Muellner

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About Tommy Muellner

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Tommy Muellner is a highly respected Chicago jazz pianist and composer. He has received critical acclaim from aficionados and statesmen throughout the jazz world for his piano acumen and creativity. He has an uncanny understanding of harmonic movement, improvisation and musical interplay. Neil Tesser, the nationally recognized jazz critic and writer for Playboy magazine and other prestigious publications, sites Tommy as a “pianist and tunesmith of stellar magnitude.” Mike Drew of the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal says, “Like the late keyboard master Bill Evans, Tom finds classic gems, and creates sophisticated lyric variations.” And this from Hammond organ master Joey DeFrancesco, “Tommy swings, grooves, is soulful, and in total command of his instrument, plus I love him, he’s one of my favorites!”

As a band leader, Tommy has performed for large concert venues as well as many prestigious jazz clubs. Tom’s current working trio includes the great bassist Kelly Sill and ever swinging drummer Tim Davis. Tom also performs often with the great vocalist Arlene Bardelle. Tom performs at many prestigious Chicago area clubs and hotels such as the Jazz Showcase, the Green Mill, Andy’s, Joe’s Bebop Cafe, Green Dolphin Street, Pop’s, the Ritz Carlton and the Drake. Tom plays everything from solo piano to big bands, but his preference has always been trio. “It’s a wonderful format for self-expression” says Tom.

Tommy comes from a home enriched with good music. Tom’s father and brother are also professional musicians. Tom started playing gigs when he was quite young. Although he has played drums, guitar, bass and organ, Tom’s natural preference was always the piano. He grew up hearing many great jazz recordings, but related to the unique jazz piano artistry of Erroll Garner and his “swinging happy piano”. Tom is forever indebted to Erroll for inspiring him to focus on jazz piano at an early age.

Tom came to an important milestone in his early twenties by discovering the genius of the late jazz piano master Bill Evans. “I think I was drawn to Bill by osmosis,” Tommy reflects, surmising that Evans has forever changed the way jazz piano is played. That important discovery led him to deeper possibilities in music. “When I truly heard the music, I realized that jazz was larger than music. It’s great art, and a philosophy with spiritual ramifications,” he says. In addition Tommy hails Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane as monumental influences. His favorite pianists include Art Tatum, Hank Jones, Bud Powell, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Wynton Kelly, McCoy Tyner, Monty Alexander, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Steve Kuhn, Denny Zeitlin, Fred Hersch, Kenny Werner, and his close friend John Campbell. Tom also loves the brilliant playing of his dear friend, organ master Joey DeFrancesco.

Tommy’s nationally distributed CD “It’s (All) About Time”, was recorded in 1998 with bassist David Marr and drummer Tim Davis. Tommy’s good friend Art Davis also plays flugelhorn and trumpet on four tracks. This CD includes reworked standards and original compositions. Also, Tom has recently acted as pianist and arranger for a top notch Chicago all-star recording for the very talented vocalist Arlene Bardelle, to be released in the near future.

Tommy has performed with many “world class” jazz stars such as Ira Sullivan, Eddie Daniels, Marvin Stamm, Bobby Ojeda, John Fedchock, Eric Schneider, Mark Colby, Richie Cole, Von Freeman, Ron Dewar, Mike Smith, Redd Holt (of Ramsey Lewis fame), Don Osborne (of Mel Torme fame) and the late Barrett Deems (of Louis Armstrong fame), to name just a few. Tom enjoys working with great vocalists. "From working with great singers you develop a huge repertoire of American standard tunes, and a great appreciation for lyrics" Tom reflects. He accompanies many fine vocalists such as Arlene Bardelle, Spider Saloff, Hinda Hoffman, Libby York, Colleen McNabb, Sonny “G” and Marc Pompe.

Tommy Muellner continues to dazzle audiences with his unique brand of swinging lyrical jazz piano. He received rave reviews performing with his trio at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee in May 2004. Indeed, acclaim for the talent, taste and splendid style of this consummate professional is as resonant as the rich chords and silky lines with which Tommy Muellner creates his personal musical magic.

Tommy Muellner joined the JazzTimes community on Jan 05, 2010