Some of the more recent pieces I have explored and been writing about from Tobin Mueller have often been songs with a heavier and heartfelt message. That’s the great thing about his music: he understands the power of the platform he is afforded as a recognised and well-regarded musician. And he uses it wisely to make music that makes us feel, think, and question the world around us. It gives us pause for thought and asks us to ponder the direction that the modern world is going in and many of the choices that society, and those we put in place to lead us, make.

But Tobin also knows the power of music as a means of entertainment, and just as often, he makes music that revels in just being music. As the name suggests, Come In Funky is one of his more straightforward songs.

Ron Carter’s slinky bass line takes us by the hand, leading us in, the perfect blend of swagger and sophistication. Tobin’s organ joins it, building a multi-faceted array of keys and chords, sonic washes and musical motifs. Once the required framework is in place, long-term collaborator Woody Mankowski fills the space with a weave of wonderous saxophone lines.

It may be an instrumental piece, but it is like listening to three voices, all dancing deftly around each other, changing form and function as required, each getting their spotlight moments, each slowly adding to the weight of the song and each also playing only so much that the light gets in (as Mr. Cohen might say), that is to say, that the song remains airy and spacious.

It’s a funky song but one that approaches the genre from a jazz-infused direction, meaning that it is both groovesome and danceable yet cleverly composed, ornate and unsecond-guess-able!

And like many of the songs that Tobin releases, the additional visuals really help seal the deal. In his more profound and poignant moments, this can be in the form of often challenging visuals. Here, it takes the form of a more traditional dance performance, with a solo street dancer and then a synchronised ensemble becoming the embodiment of the music.

I always enjoy watching the bodily skill of great musicians; just the physical action required to produce exquisite music is, in itself, a performance in its own right, full of flourish and panache. The practical application of skill becomes itself a dance. And, whilst that isn’t something everyone is captivated by, the dancers here embody that same spirit. Their complex moves and extraordinary suppleness match the actions taken to make the music, as much a response to the sound of the music being made.

When set against the music I have recently written about from this versatile artist, the stark contrast in styles, intent, and subject matter is palpable. Again, this is the perfect reminder that music, in the right pair of hands, can be turned to any purpose you like.

The song comes in funky; the audience goes out satisfied. Job done.

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