By likemindblog



TOMMY MUELLNER 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, bass and organ, Tom’s natural preference was always the piano.  He grew up hearing may 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 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.

Tommy, welcome and thank you so much for making time to participate in this project within your very busy schedule and answering the following questions for our readers:  

 No. 1)  What is music to and for you (generally and personally)

Music is air & water to me, without it I’d wither & die away. For me, it’s also my sanity. I hungTommy Muellner c out with some punks when I was a kid growing up in Chicago. I liked getting into a little trouble now & then, but when they were ready to get into big trouble, I’d leave the scene, and “go practice”. So in that sense, music saved my life, because many of those people I grew up with didn’t survive.

Lots of things, like love. The night. The moon. The stars. A beautiful day. Beautiful women. Haunting melodies. Bill Evans, Bird (Charlie Parker), Trane (John Coltrane) and all the great jazz teachers. Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Samuel Barber, Rachmaninoff, Ravel and many other greats. Beautiful people. Kindness. Tolerance. Decency. Inspiring art like that of van Gogh. Working with great musicians & singers.

No. 3)  When you are creating, playing, where does it take you? Where does your mind (Spirit) travel? 

Usually when I’m performing, I’m in a world of pure inspired joy. Playing music is a great “high” and I really couldn’t live without it. Also, as human beings, we deal with all kinds of crazy situations in everyday life. Musicians also deal with many special circumstances, like an out of tune piano, a room with terrible acoustics, or maybe you have a bad cold, or a multitude of things. However, once I’m playing, I’m transported to another place that transcends all of that.

No. 4)  Do you think music, visual art and health are related, and if so, how?

Well certainly mental health. On a larger scale, I think humanity is doomed without art & music. I measure a country’s worth by it’s musical & artistic wealth. Frankly, I worry that people who just don’t care often, or only care about “the bottom line” are in positions to cut funds for the arts. Whether it’s media, radio, or some restaurant or club, whatever. Take Jazz for example. It’s not considered a profitable endeavour, so it’s forced into being an underground thing. If enough people are exposed to it & just given a chance to hear it, I really believe they will learn to love it.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that a country without the arts is unhealthy, “sick.” if you will. The arts create happiness, happiness creates good health. Of course then there’s eating late at night after a gig (ha-ha), not too healthy, ah, but what fun to hang out with musical pals & hear great stories & just talk shop.

Tommy Muellner aNo. 5)  How do you feel when you are playing for yourself versus playing for an audience?

There are wonderful moments at home & alone in the quiet. These are usually moments of self-discovery, or thinking about how good it will sound when you play it with the right cats or kittens. However, my most enjoyable playing is for an audience. A week ago, I played with some of my “A list” pals at a club. The audience fed off of us, and vice-versa. It was two-way communication! I think it’s important for jazz players to engage the audience. Masters like Clark Terry, Dizzy & James Moody got that, and I learned it from them. There’s nothing wrong with being a great player, but also being a good entertainer….

No. 6)  Under what conditions do you do your best work?

In performance, I’m inspired by playing with great musicians who are fun to play with, and by an audience that’s into & enjoying the music. And certainly, it’s nice when the piano is good, and in tune. Also, playing at home alone, working on a new tune is nice too. Then there are other times when I’m playing a corporate gig for some event, and it’s not inspiring at all. Those are the “money” gigs, so you just utilize all your professionalism, and make it work. Those gigs are necessary & help pay the bills.

No. 7)  Do you identify with your music and if so, on what level? 

In the sense that it’s mine & unique to me, like it or not. I’m a little critical of my own compositions, but then other people hear them and like them. I love the standards! They’re melodically & harmonically so very rich & interesting. I guess they influence my own composing.

No. 8)  Does playing help you connect with your higher self, whatever thatTommy Muellner - Publicity Photo may be for you?

Absolutely! Music and the arts in general saved me from a mundane life. When you listen to Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Miles, Trane, Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, or any other genius, you can’t help but feel connected to a higher source or intelligence.

No. 9)  How do you feel about creativity in the public school systems?

In many cases the US falls short. Like Mingus said: “let my children hear music”. It’s terribly unfortunate that funding for music & art programs is usually a last priority in public schools. In the long run, we’d have less crime & less problem children if there were more music & art programs. Music kept me off the streets when I was young. And let’s face it, not every kid is inclined towards sports, so it’s important to have something for the kids who “march to a different drummer”.  Every child in America needs to know who Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker is! Also the media has a monopoly on what music children hear, and jazz & classical aren’t “money makers”!

No. 10)  In your opinion, what would be a simple solution to improve creativity in the public school systems?

Well, if it was the 1970’s, I’d say elect Dizzy for president (ha, ha). Like I already said more music programs & live performances in the schools. Take the kids on a field trip to the museums & art galleries, or an afternoon jazz concert. I always loved getting out of the classroom.

Tommy Muellner bNo. 11)  Do you think establishments where musicians play should have a section reserved for those who really want to listen to music versus people who just want to talk?

If you have a thinking club owner, they’d likely have a policy in place to seat the music people closer to the band & put the diners & talkers in the back. Also, I don’t care if people talk a bit & have some fun, as long as they have respect for the music & the other people who want to listen. Unfortunately, musicians have to make a living, and often end up playing restaurants where you’re background to dining. Most of those places don’t have a clue about presenting music, but if you find the right places with thinking managers & owners, it can make all the difference.

No. 12)  What do you think about improvisation?

This is a great question! I’ve often said that improvisation is what really defines jazz and makes it a truly unique music! I can appreciate when there is a jazz group performing original tunes, and everything is written out. However, to me, jazz should be loose (freedom within certain barriers). Jazz icons like Louie Armstrong, Charlie Parker & Dizzy were the greatest improvisers in jazz history, and every note fit perfectly within the harmonic framework. It’s pure jazz, and it’s pure bliss to listen to them play it! They pointed all of us that followed, in this direction. There are other factors that make up this music, and certainly many styles of it, but still, improvisation is akin to the 3 primary colors, where all the other colors come from. To me, it’s really what defines the quality of a jazz player.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us.  Your experience can inspire many and perhaps help those that need your wise advice.  This is indeed a most interesting conversation and I am sincerely happy we have done this.  Until we work together again, keep well and be blessed!Tommy Muellner d



You are invited to visit Tommy Muellner’s links to learn more about him and hear more of his wonderful music as well.  Your comments are appreciated.  Enjoy!

 Mail this post
Be Sociable, Share!
Filed in: MUSIC • Sunday, January 29th, 2012


I’m an old friend of Tommy and just love his music. Mellow, hip,happening, whatever you call it, just listening makes me smile.
Thanks Tommy & Friends.


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge


My name is Michele Andree. I am an artist, I paint musicians in action. I think I’m a musician at heart, my instrument being… a brush, so I play…brush and I paint… music.
I love jazz. I call it freedom music. It promotes special values. I love intelligent people and good conversations.

Some people ask me how music relates to art. Personally I find they go hand in hand. Music is what turns me on to painting. It makes me see colours