Tobin Mueller understands the benefits of collaboration better than most. Even though he releases music mainly under his own name, I’m sure he would be the first to admit that it is music made by standing on the shoulders of giants. That is to say, it is the sonic support and deft musical platforms formed by the revolving roster of the great and good garnered from all genres that enable him to make music this good. This unique. This forward-thinking. Icarus is the perfect example of that.

One of the key sounds on the song is that of the soprano saxophone, courtesy of Grammy Award winner and Jazzwise Magazine cover artist Donny McCaslin. Here, his playing swoops and soars, floats and drifts, dives and drives, like the flight of the title character and perhaps not unlike the changing nature of love and relationships that is the subtext being expressed here.

The other fantastic sonic inclusion comes from John Luper, sadly no longer with us, but here leaving a legacy of guitar lines which snake and coil between an epic rock and ornate jazz, again following its own intricate and graceful flight path. Everything else you hear, vocals, piano, bass, organ and much else, is the work of Tobin Mueller himself.

And, this is not the first time that the Mueller and McCaslin have worked together. The saxophonist once visited Mueller in his NYC apartment to lay down some ideas that could be potentially used for a song that ended up becoming Crazy Story, 5 takes in all, to give the composer plenty to work with. Tobin Mueller used all five takes, fitting them together into an ever-evolving sonic stream of consciousness that shifts and re-shapes as the song goes along—a perfect musical analogy for the song’s lyrical message and overall allusions.

Like so much of Tobin Mueller’s work, Icarus is rife with juxtaposition and attractive opposites, shifting mood and evolving melody. Considering the song is about failed love, loss and longing, and considering that we know full well that Icarus is a metaphor for demise born of hubris, the song is still somehow euphoric, the playing carrying us ever higher, ever nearer the sun, towards our yet unknown destiny. But, as an analogy, it is perfect, the pride before the fall, the love before the loss, a recollection of the unparalleled experience of a relationship when it is in full flight.

Although the eclecticism of jazz and the complexity of more progressive music are woven into the song’s DNA, it remains very accessible. It is a song that weaves its various musical threads tightly into confident and controlled sonics so as never to overwhelm the listener, as some music this adventurous and layered can often do. In fact, just the opposite. It demands that you react, join the journey by swaying and nodding, tapping and eventually, your controlled rhythmic response turns into gentle dancing before you give yourself over to its ever-changing moods. And you have to lift off!

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