Born: January 25 Primary Instrument: Piano
Tommy Muellner is a highly respected Chicago born 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. Playboy magazine critic Neil Tesser cites 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 lyrical 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 bandleader, Tommy has performed for large concert venues as well as many prestigious jazz clubs. Tommy performs at many prestigious Chicago area clubs such as the Jazz Showcase, the Green Mill, Andy’s, Green Dolphin Street, Pete Millers and Pops, as well as many fine Chicago hotels. He was a mainstay at the Drake Hotel for several years. Tom plays everything from solo piano to large bands, but his preference has always been trio or quartet. Tommy has also performed music for stage productions, including the downtown Chicago theater district. He also freelances with many top musicians and plays piano for private occasions, and has even performed for royalty, entertaining members of British Parliament at a private affair.
Tommy comes from a home enriched with good music. Tom’s father and brother are also professional musicians. Tommy started playing gigs at an early age. Although he has played drums, guitar, bass and organ, his natural preference was always the piano. Tommy grew up hearing many great jazz recordings, but especially related to the unique jazz piano artistry of Erroll Garner and his “swinging happy piano”. He is forever indebted to Erroll for giving him the inspiration to focus on jazz piano at an early age, but came to an important milestone in his early twenties by discovering the genius of the late pianist 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 the deeper possibilities of music. When I finally 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, Hammond 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. Tom is pianist & arranger on vocalist Sonny Guagliardo's new Cd along with organ master Joey DeFrancesco. Tom is also on vocalist Colleen McNabb's new Cd along with Joey DeFrancesco, Byron Landrom, Steve Gadd, Buddy Mongomery, and others. 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. Tommy also works with many great vocalists such as Arlene Bardelle, Spider Saloff, Hinda Hoffman, Libby York and Colleen McNabb. In addition, Tommy has acted as musical director on a few occasions for well-known comedians.
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.