by Shelly Weiss


As far as my musical tastes are concerned, keyboardist/arranger/writer/producer/performer Rob Mullins is #1, and in a class by himself. “Awesome” is an understatement.
My first introduction to Rob Mullins was about five years ago, when ex-Denver radio jock Cheryl Steele, a then-weekend disc jockey on the Quiet Storm (the original Wave format station in L.A.) started playing her favorite Denver-based jazz musician, Rob Mullins. The public’s response was so great that Mullins was soon appearing before SRO crowds in the L.A. area at Bon Appetite in Westwood and At My Place in Santa Monica.
I went down to these clubs to see if the live presentation would be true to the records I was hearing. To my pleasant surprise, Mullins live was the best jazz keyboardist I had ever seen. That first weekend, I saw all four of his shows and left the club blown away both nights.
Since my life has been fairly active in other areas of the music business over the past few years, I hadn’t been in touch with the jazz scene until about three weekends ago, when my friend Lauren Wood was going to perform with the Tim Weissberg Band in San Diego to celebrate the 15th anniversary of radio station KIFM (FM 98). I was thrilled when I saw Rob Mullins’ name on the same bill.
What has happened to Mullins since I last saw him is hard to believe. He’s gotten even better. His two sets left the crowds on their feet screaming for more. I’m not kiddin’. I got back in touch with Mullins and went to see him last weekend (July 13) at Bon Appetit with his trio-consisting of Dave Carpenter on bass, Joel Taylor on drums and sit-in sax player Wilton Felder of Crusaders fame--and he really blew the room away.
I am very rarely at a loss for words. All I can tell you is that if you want to hear and see one of the most exciting/musician/performer/arranger/writers anywhere. Rob Mullins is what the word “virtuoso” means. Check him out-you won’t be sorry.
Citing influences ranging from the Beatles and the Beach Boys to Chick Corea and Pat Metheny, Mullins, a 30-year-old Denver native, claims that it was Buddy Rich who inspired him to become a jazz drummer at 11. After playing drums for a while with a California-based big band, Mullins switched to piano at age 14 after an ill-fated accident limited his ability to play drums. At this time, he began listening to piano greats like Errol Garner and Oscar Peterson and thus his career as a jazz keyoardist was born. Jazz was a guiding influence in high school, where Mullins received critical acclaim and musical guidance from recognized leaders such as Oliver Nelson, Clark Terry and Urbie Green.
In 1981, Mullins started his own label, RMC Records, and released three albums, which were successful enough in the Rocky Mountain area to lead to the national release of Soulscape, which sold over 40,000 copies and earned him a Grammy nomination for the song “Making Love.” Nite Street, the follow-up release and his fifth album on RMC, became his second release to hit the jazz charts. In 1988, Mullins made his L.A.-based Nova Records debut with Fifth Gear (Nova 8810), one of the most popular jazz releases that year. After an extremely successful musical sojourn back to his mainstream roots with last year’s Jazz Jazz (Nova8918) he returns with his new album, Tokyo Nights, which features his previous aggressive contemporary fusion grooves and is his latest creative pursuit into new and innovative musical territories. As the name implies, Tokyo Nights is a tribute to the Japanese culture Mullins has been exposed to on numerous tours of Japan these past few years.
One of the elements that separates both Mullins’ recording and live shows (which he describes as “the most thrilling aspect of making music”) from those of other keyboardists is his remarkable ability to fuse lush synthesizer grooves with some of the most sensitive acoustic piano playing you’ll ever hear. He does it again here on upbeat tunes like “Memory Lane,” which features the sweet soprano sax of Ernie Watts. Also quite appealing are “B 4 U Go,” which is done in the flavor of his earlier hit, “Making Love,” and the elegant solo piano piece “No Secrets.”
Mullins’ main objective with Tokyo Nights is to “continue to do music which goes beyond the limits of what you normally hear on the radio. I want to keep creating music that’s exciting and interesting, offering a split between something that is listenable and music that will keep jazz connoisseurs and keyboard enthusiasts satisfied.” Mr Mullins, I am more than satisfied. Thanks for reminding me why I love music.........

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