by Jazz Square Magazine
        Jazz pianist Rob Mullins came to Russia in January 2008 for three nights of shows at Union of Composers Club in the center of Moscow.  Onstage he used the classic format of the jazz trio (piano, bass, and drums) but the performed music, atmosphere and  quality were so impressive that many people returned again on the second, and even the third nights after first concert to hear this musical master of the keyboard.
       This was not musician Rob Mullins first appearance in Moscow. He had played shows with Hubert Laws (flute), taught students at a jazz college in 2006, had a private party, and now presented three nights of great music which brought deep emotion, new knowledge, and contagious interest. Rob’s name is not well-known to the Russian audience but this week of gigs was a major step towards expanding his fame and fan base in the Russian musical community. Many special guests joined the trio onstage during the shows, and by themselves presented a completed band with astonishing sound and the fun of improvisations, sweet heartfelt ballads, and some groovy, almost funky old standards.
     Rob Mullins is releasing his new album in March 2008, but in Russia he played the songs from his “Standards and More” album. He is not only a musician, but composer, recording artist, teacher, and book author. His fame is spreading throughout the world  - he has played and recorded with The Crusaders, Hubert Laws, Ronnie Laws, Diane Reeves, Diane Schuur, Gerald Albright, Brian Bromberg, Frank Gambale,  the Denver Symphony,  Greg Vail, Jimmy Roberts, The China Club All Stars, James Woods, James Moody, Spike Robinson, Alphonso Johnson and others. He is a Grammy Nominee for his  “Soulscape” album and is a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Grammy awards).  His students get a chance to go on to the big entertainment world and can be successful there. His books are highly recommended at Berklee School of Music. It will take days to list all his rewards and achievements, so let’s come back to the show.
      The club is a really nice place, pretty dark and with not great piano onstage.  The latter did not stop the musicians from creating  a unique, friendly climate and to communicate with audience easily. Rob Mullins played the originals and standards, taking them over with his piano, and during the show this musician plus the other trio members- Vladimir Koltsov on acoustic bass and Igor Ignatov on drums – were joined by some great Russian musicians. First  - Oleg Butman (living in New York City), on the drums, and Natalia Smirnova – vocals. They  played “All of Me “ and made it very bright, with an interesting approach  to solos,  talking together. And Oleg Butman brought some of the New York sound, playing close to Elvin Jones’ style, but with his individual  traits, like laughing on high-hat and making tempo faster on tom tom. It was another, new band onstage when Oleg sat in. Then Igor Butman,  famous Russian saxophone player came onstage, and there were little contests in their performances. Musicians were showing off on Rob Mullins’ song  “Bb Major Etude”, then they played “Moanin’” (Bobby Timmons).
    The sets were about an hour each, but it seemed like ages and only a moment at the same time. The music led you somewhere- where you could see, memorize, feel, and understand more. And it was enjoyable looking at the musicians playing  pathetique on “When I Fall In Love”, or the hot fiery “Island Girls” (composed by Rob Mullins) with drums seemingly from everywhere  - on the piano -  the repeating chords in high and mid register, on bass –  fast walking  lines, and obviously, the drum set, which was hot. “Georgia On My Mind” found a new life as a bossa nova. The group also did a very nice performance of “Softly As A Morning Sunrise”, and “Caravan” which was rich in piquant harmonies and rhythms.