pianist • 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.
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 with his modern jazz trio Hi Happy, or backing up world-class rock and blues musicians at festivals just about anywhere.
He’s a supportive sideman and competent music director who uses his broad experience to bring out the best in those around him, and he regulary does studio work on recordings across multiple genres.
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 regularly 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 bass (and keyboard) phenom Casey Anderson, until Jonathan relocated to Seattle, Washington. They continue to collaborate and are working on an upcoming recording project with bassist Lisle Ellis.
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.)
He has performed at NAMM with Public Enemy’s Brian Hardgroove, former Scatterbrain drummer Mike Boyko, guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Grammy-winner Larry Mitchell, and Kansas (and Dixie Dregs) guitarist Steve Morse. 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, 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 lost its accreditation during a fiscal crisis and 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, Universal Support Systems, Apple, Event Audio, Ultimate Ears, and Ableton, in addition to vintage keyboards like the Fender Rhodes, Hohner Clavinet and various organs. He’d love to get another Wurly, he left his behind when he left New Jersey, but let’s face it: it’s hard to find a deal on a Wurly these days.
He’s also an experienced photographer and has had his work appear in Santa Fean magazine and Architectural Digest.
July 25, 2019 6:30-9:30pm
Adobe Bar (Taos), A Tribute to John Coltrane w/Alex Murzyn, Andy Zadrozny and Peter Acosta Amoral
August 1, 2019 6-8pm
Placitas Café w/Got Groove and Michael Herndon
August 3, 2019 8pm
African American Performance Center (Albuquerque), The Gatekeepers featuring Michael Herndon and Toni Morgan
August 7, 2019 7-9pm
Kaktus (Bernalillo) w/Got Groove
August 11, 2019 7pm
Canyon Blues and Jazz (Placitas), Toni Morgan Sings Chaka Khan
August 15, 2019 6-8pm
Placitas Café w/Got Groove and Wendy Beach
August 30, 2019 7pm
The Skillet (Las Vegas, NM) w/The Fat Sweet
September 6, 2019 time tbd, festival 6-11pm
Jazz at Sunset (El Paso, TX) w/Michael Herndon Group
September 19, 2019 time tbd
Library of Congress (Washington, DC) w/Joy Harjo
September 27, 2019 9:30-12:30
Tonic (Santa Fe) w/Lee Steck and Casey Anderson
October 5, 2019 7:30-10:30
El Meson (Santa Fe) w/Alex Murzyn
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
DJ Gone Beyond
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)
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