It is easy to associate artists with certain sounds or styles. And on this new take on Joni Mitchell’s Blue, we can see precisely why you shouldn’t do so. To many, Mitchell is the archetypal folk singer. Similarly, many might see Tobin Mueller as a dyed-in-the-wool jazz musician. But of course, anyone who has spent time with the music of either artist will know that they, as all great creators should be, are both sonic explorers, people pushing boundaries, both their own and more broadly speaking too, happy to blur the lines of sound and style. So, it is appropriate that Tobin Mueller cites Mitchell as a valuable earlier influence on him.

So, Blue is the perfect place for them to meet. It is the sound of the iconic, Laurel Canyon-infused singer-songwriter moving slightly into new territory, more jazz-inspired realms, the start of just one of the many changes and sonic shifts she would explore over the years. Similarly, if the original is an understated piano and vocal piece, this new, deft exploration brings much more dynamic to the song’s flow.

With Tobin himself building the song’s robust yet fluid platform from piano, effected clavinet and some dexterous bass work, and Rubin De Ruiter adding all manner of cool percussive additions, the centre ground is open for regular collaborator Woody Mankowski to take centre stage, his saxophone becoming the focal point, where the vocal point once was.

It’s an extraordinary meeting of minds. Tobin pulling Mitchell’s original further into jazz territory, Mitchell grounding any inclinations to get too busy, the result a fine line walked between then and now, what was and what might have been, between jazz and folk, between understatement and adornment. Brilliant.

And, as always, the video isn’t just a series of unrelated images to give the eyes something to do while the ears are serenaded. Again, as always, there is a point to them. Here, we are treated to all manner of images of the great lady herself throughout the years, portraiture and pictures in all manner of styles from fans and professionals alike. (The Joni as Van Gogh image is particularly poignant.) But also, using the opening line as a point of reference, “Songs are like tattoos,” these images are indispersed with, just that, a fantastic array of body art showing the process from start to finish.

I never fail to be amazed as to where Tobin Mueller can go with his music. It must be the fact that he has the ability to be a sonic chameleon, blending in perfectly to any style or genre that takes his fancy yet always retaining his own musical idiosyncrasies and sonic personality. And that, surely, is what all artists should endeavour to do. Why define yourself as, say, a rock guitarist, a pop singer or a funk drummer when you can merely label yourself a musician and, in doing so, leave every and any door open to you? Tobin may be, first and foremost, a jazz pianist, but he is undoubtedly much more than that.

The art, as he displays again and again, is not defining yourself by where you have already been musically speaking but by where you intend to go next. Do that, and you can be anything you want to be. How great an attitude is that?

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