After Baxter Robertson fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a professional musician, he found himself in a profound quandary. He had survived performing on streets and in dingy clubs, built a major label recording artist career, and now managed to support a family in a competitive creative career as a highly regarded commercial composer, writing music for toys, TV, movies, and apps, but something was missing.
“I was sitting there at my computer and it hit me: I had done all this work to be a professional musician, but I wasn’t playing live,” the San Francisco-based artist/composer/multi-instrumentalist says. “I realized, to be who I truly am, I had to be in front of people playing music.”
From this inner directive Robertson created The Tiger Club, a fluid collective of musicians playing his wildly imaginative compositions, an eclectically evocative brand of instrumental pop conjuring exotic locales, intrigue, wry wit, elegant cool, mystique, silken soul, and lush sensuality, among other tastefully stylized but playful moods. The project’s latest, Mephisto Island (Aeneid Recording Company), represents a remarkable feat. It showcases a distinct band identity threaded through a vibrant tapestry of complimentary and contrasting styles.
Robertson holds a degree in music composition from UCLA. He developed his fearlessly theatrical creativity performing in a popular LA street band from 1973 to 1976. From that fertile time, he went on to record as pop-rock artist for such labels as RCA, Atlantic, and ATCO. Currently Robertson is an in-demand commercial composer for television, major motion pictures, apps, and toys. In addition to this work, he teaches graduate level studies in harmony and music theory at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
The Tiger Club was born in 2004 from the need to play adventurous but accessible music that harnessed Robertson’s compositional skills, his sense of whimsy, and his desire to connect with people through live performance. Mephisto Island (Aeneid Recording Company) is the group’s second record and it’s finest. It benefits from a stable collective of musicians—club members, as they are called—and a well-developed sense of band identity.
The 10 instrumental originals on Mephisto Island (Aeneid Recording Company) are refreshingly diverse, spanning the quiet fire of the Latin-tinged “Showdown at Mezcal Flats,” the slinky strut of “Green Goddess,” and the jubilant gospel-flavored “Order Of The Seeing Eye.” In today’s computer-based culture, it’s a revelation to hear a punchy horn section, stately strings, and clever arrangements played in real time by a cast of twenty-five world-class musicians from all over the United States.
Mephisto Island was produced and mixed by Cal Ball for his indie imprint Aeneid Recording Company. Ball crafted a production aesthetic that is warm and vibey with a pristine, modern pop clarity. The album was recorded by engineer Willie Samuels at Studio Trilogy and mastered by grammy award-winning mastering engineer Bernie Grundman.
The Tiger Club’s live show is whole other animal. It’s a freewheeling romp with Clubbers dressed uniform, burning through originals and ingenious vocal versions of chestnuts such as “Mellow Yellow,” “Daydream Believer,” and Blue Öyster Cult’s “Burnin’ For You” which they’ve been known to perform as a scorching ska number.
Of all the highlights of Robertson’s storied professional musician career, it’s a simple feeling he cherishes the most. “It’s that moment you realize you’re onstage killing it, the audience is digging it, and you’re communicating who you really are. Nothing stokes the fire of life and creativity like that.”