pianist • keyboardist • composer • improviser
Robert Muller is a pianist and keyboardist based in Santa Fe, NM, with experience ranging from smokey local bars to international music festivals. A freewheeling and exuberant improviser, he’s known for a distinctly modern and soulful musical approach informed as much by funk as by avant-garde jazz and 80s pop.
[ IN CASE THIS IS WHAT YOU’RE HERE FOR: I’m accepting a limited number of students for online lessons. I have mostly been using Zoom, Skype, Facetime and Whatsapp, but if you use something else we can probably figure it out. Feel free to email with questions! ]
You might catch him sitting in with an underground hip-hop band at a local Santa Fe microbrewery, playing at an art gallery in Colorado, or backing up world-class rock and blues musicians at festivals just about anywhere.
He studied closely with Blue Note jazz great Dr. Andrew Hill at Portland State University for several years and performed extensively on the West Coast doing everything from local Portland jazz gigs to touring with a Shriner’s Circus in British Columbia and working as a sideman with Iranian pop stars.
He moved to New York City in the early 90’s and became active in the downtown music scene with his own trio Timefly and as a sideman for several original acts. Robert appeared several times on MTV2 with underground hip-hop artist Pete Miser and performed at venues like SOB’s, The Knitting Factory, The Blue Note, Mercury Lounge, and Studio 54.
After moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico some eleven years later, he immediately started to do studio work and performances with Grammy-winning guitarist Larry Mitchell for several award-winning artists, including NAMMY winning singer and songwriter Shelley Morningsong.
He co-leads the modern jazz project Kodama Trio, whose eponymous debut album received 2016 New Mexico Music Awards for Best Jazz CD and Best Jazz Single. He was part of an inspired new modern jazz trio called Hi Happy in 2019, along with drummer phenom Jonathan Rodriguez and young lion bassist (and pianist) Casey Anderson, until Jonathan relocated to Seattle, Washington.
Robert has also been a frequent sideman and collaborator with Mvskoke poet/author/musician Joy Harjo in venues and festivals as far-flung as Anchorage, Indianapolis, Tulsa, and the Public Theater in New York City. (Note: In 2019, Joy was named Poet Laureate of the United States!!! I’m honored to call her a friend and I was honored to accompany her at her inaugural reading. Read more below.)
He has performed at NAMM with Public Enemy’s Brian Hardgroove, guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Grammy-winner Larry Mitchell, and Kansas (and Dixie Dregs) guitarist Steve Morse, and opened for artists including Jessica Williams, Kevin Eubanks, and Del the Funkee Homosapien. He was the music director a Nathan East tribute at the 2016 New Mexico Film and Music Experience – he arranged music and led a New Mexico-based all-star tribute band, and then performed with the East family’s band, which included Greg Phillinganes, James East, Steve Ferrone, and Nathan East himself.
Robert worked for Horace Alender Young as an adjunct professor of music at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s Contemporary Music Program starting in 2013. (Sadly, the university was shuttered after the 2017-2018 school year.)
In September 2019, Robert was honored to appear with the 23rd US Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo, at her inaugural speech at the Library of Congress, along with Larry Mitchell and bassist Howard Cloud. The occasion was historic in several ways, among them: Joy is the first Native American Poet Laureate, it was the best attended inaugural speech, selling out the main Calvin Coolidge Theater as well as two overflow rooms, and it’s possibly the only time the event has included a live band. Video of the event can be found on the Library of Congress’s YouTube Channel.
He uses gear from companies including Yamaha, Nord, Kawai Pianos, Korg, Bose, Roland, Novation, Ultimate Support Systems, Apple, Event Audio, Ultimate Ears, and Ableton. Or even a real piano, whenever one is available.
He’s also an experienced photographer and has had his work appear in Santa Fean magazine and Architectural Digest.
Upcoming dates have all been postponed or canceled at this point due to precautions surrounding the COVID19 pandemic. Meanwhile, I’m doing what all my friends are doing – trying to figure out what the future looks like and trying to support local businesses and artists how I can. Thanks, y’all, miss you, be safe, and hope to see you soon!
some of the people and groups I have worked with:
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter
Horace Alexander Young
Jane Ira Bloom
Elliot Umberto Kavee
Roberto “Fats” Fernandez
Pete “Costa” Amahl
Brendan & the Extenuating Circumstances
“Despite the obviously cooperative nature of the trio, Muller’s piano dominates throughout. A percussive, muscular player in the mold of McCoy Tyner, he’s a remarkable soloist with a wealth of rhythmic and melodic ideas and a yen for dark and gnarly harmonies.”
Kodama Trio CD Review (Allaboutjazz.com)
“Muller brings a spritely, spiky energy that contrasts nicely with the mellower qualities of tuba and ’bone. His adventurous, muscular solos incorporate elements from bebop to funk, with touches of hip-hop attitude.”
Christian Pincock CD Review (Melminter.com)
“Muller is like a vampire in that if you invite him in he’ll always just kind of be around. Also, he’s a pretty amazing pianist, so… “
Pranzo (Santa Fe Reporter)
“There are proggy elements at play that present a more rock ’n’ roll sensibility than many might think when they hear the qualifier “jazz” and if nothing else, these guys are all f*cking bonkers when it comes to musicianship. “
Mushi Trio Review (Santa Fe Reporter)
Pete Miser: The piano player, Robert Muller, is just … so hyper-musical, like kind of jazz-based. He’s a student of Andrew Hill. He’s so out that he goes into the anti-music zone, you know what I mean?
Cosmik: Playing off someone who’s in that frame of mind must be kind of inspirational for you.
Pete Miser: Yeah, it’s dope.
Cosmik Debris Magazine (Pete Miser Interview)
SoundsI used to have a CDBaby player here but they’ve gone dark, I’ll update with a new player or something from Soundcloud when I get around to it, meanwhile, Kodama Trio still has our album available on Amazon, and I usually have a project or two posted on Bandcamp.
* It has recently come to my attention that my “contact” form broke at some point. Even though it would thank you for your message, I was not getting anything sent to me.
I’m not really sure when it broke, but if you have sent me a message and I have not responded, I sincerely apologize, I always respond. I’m doing away with the whole “contact form” thing for nowand you can just send me an email if you want to get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh, and I’m also involved with photography. I don’t update it as often as I should, but if you’re interested, please visit robertmullerphotography.com
Kodama Trio on CDBaby
Kodama Trio on Amazon
Robert Muller on Bandcamp