Barbara Snow: Animal Jazz

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Edition HH is a publishing house founded by Norwegian musician Per Hartmann, and based in Oxfordshire, UK. Their eclectic and ever-expanding catalogue embraces contemporary scores and scholarly performing editions of rarer items in the musical repertoire, from the Renaissance to the Romantic periods.

‘Animal Jazz’ is a recent addition, a selection of 15 brand new original short pieces for piano solo composed by London-based musician Barbara Snow.

The Composer

Barbara enjoys a varied music career which has included composing for Channel 4 TV, stints performing with big ticket acts around the world, and touring with her own Latin/Jazz group Chico Chica (in which she provides vocals, trumpet and flugel).

According to the Edition HH website, Barbara has also devised a way to teach piano to very young children which has been described as “revolutionary”. As this is her first publication for Edition HH, I am certainly curious to see what will follow!

Regarding ‘Animal Jazz’ Barbara writes:

“One of my earliest memories of learning the piano was when I first came across syncopation. It was like a breath of fresh air to my young ears. With that in mind, I decided to write ‘Animal Jazz’.  Some of the pieces can be played quite early on in piano lessons, and each one, I hope, will prove instructive, confidence-building and fun all in one go!”

The Publication

The book is produced in what I believe to be Edition HH’s “house style”, comprising an attractive (but not flashy) cover, with nicely engraved notation printed on cream paper. The overall look and feel is “traditional” but appealing.

The collection is further brought to life by David Blake’s line drawings, which I am sure children will enjoy colouring in for themselves. A nice touch!

Each piece has a title using an animal name with alliteration to expand on the character – for example ‘Funky Flamingos’, ‘Chattering Chimps’‘Silvery Swans’ and my personal favourite from the collection ‘Lazy Lizard’. Playing through the collection, Barbara’s talent as a jazz musician – and Latin in particular – is evident from the start. The pieces traverse an infectious range of styles that include Bossa, Cha Cha and Bolero alongside more funky pieces.

In terms of standard, I would suggest that the pieces range from Prep Test to Grade 2, but an enthusiastic student at around Grade One would probably enjoy learning the whole collection. Technically the pieces introduce arpeggio and chromatic scale patterns, while musically a few of them feature “swing” quavers/8ths, making the book an ideal introduction to a range of jazzy styles. Sufficient – but not extraneous – fingering is included throughout, all of which is carefully worked out and successful.

The composer’s own recording of the collection can be download in MP3 format free-of-charge from the publisher’s website here.

What impresses me most with this collection is the way in which the composer is able to introduce so much character to each of these highly accessible pieces, but without adding unnecessary complexity in the process.

I can highly recommend ‘Animal Jazz’ as a thoroughly charming collection of jazzy pieces, and suspect my own younger students are going to love it!

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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, writer and composer based on Milton Keynes UK. His book HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is published by Hal Leonard.