Sheet Music Review
“Take yourself on a musical journey through the seasons with Pam Wedgwood’s Easy Jazzin’ About the Year: a treasure trove of original and favourite tunes connected with occasions throughout the year.”
Easy Jazzin’ About the Year, new from Pam Wedgwood and published by Faber Music, might just be the perfect book of pieces for children learning the piano who are around UK Grade 1-2 level. Let’s take a look!
The Jazzin’ About series of books has been an established favourite here in the UK for many years now – in fact when I started teaching full time more than 20 years ago, the original Jazzin’ About, More Jazzin’ About and Easy Jazzin’ About books were some of the first I adopted with my students. Pam Wedgwood has subsequently written the hugely popular Upgrade! series and, for older players, After Hours.
Easy Jazzin’ About the Year now joins this popular series, although I think the book could just as easily have joined the Upgrade! collections, or been published as a stand alone book.
The pieces here are not all “jazzy”, but reflect a broad range of styles and moods. It is sure to appeal to all of Pam Wedgwood’s existing fans, and I suspect it could make her many new ones!
Themed Tunes for Occasions
The book consists of 47 new pieces organised into three sections.
The first section, Seasons includes 16 pieces which follow the natural patterns of the year, from the Spring-themed Mrs. Mop Has a Spring Clean, via a summer seaside trip and the colours of autumn, through to the ice, fog and snow of winter.
The second section, Special Days, includes pieces celebrating Bonfire Night, Mother’s Day, Hallowe’en, Chinese New Year, Pancake day, and including arrangements of Happy Birthday and – for New Year – Auld Lang Syne.
The third section features longer Festivals, and includes several novel arrangements of Christmas tunes, as well as pieces commemorating Diwali, Easter, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, and a Pilgrimage to Mecca.
The pieces are officially for players of around UK Grades 1-2 level. Personally I would say they are mostly towards the upper end of that range.
With 47 pieces to choose from, there is certainly plenty of great material here for pupils to dip into over a 2-3 year period alongside their other playing, and I feel certain that the book will be a huge success with my students.
Everything about this book is spot on. The music itself is printed with commendable clarity and in slightly larger print than some publications, which is ideal for the target age group.
Each piece has a subtle box at the top of the page, supporting teachers by drawing attention to a few key technical points. The typefaces are great, and the side of each page shows which of the three sections you are in, allowing for easy navigation through the book.
Where space permits there are occasional subtle illustrations, but it is clear that throughout the book priority has been given to presenting the notation in as clear a way as possible.
There is a CD recording included, which contains simple recordings of all the pieces for demo purposes. And while the performances occasionally sound somewhat artificial, they are more than suitable for the task, and this is another really very helpful addition to the overall package.
One of the things that educational composers and publishers constantly strive for is to provide pieces which will spark the imagination of younger learners. Easy Jazzin’ About the Year absolutely hits the nail on the head!
What child isn’t excited by the changing seasons, the special events that occur each year, and the festivals celebrated in homes, schools and communities? Every child can relate to these occasions, not simply as exciting fantasy, but as exciting reality!
And Pam Wedgwood amplifies that excitement with pieces that are characteristically inventive, memorable, and above all, FUN to play.
That Pam can embed so much of genuine pedagogical value within these enjoyable pieces, and with such lightness of touch, is a tribute to her experience and talent as one of our very best educational composers.
We’re barely half way through the year, and there has already been a succession of really superb new sheet music publications. Easy Jazzin’ About the Year is certainly one of the best, and the one which I suspect I will keep returning to with student after student in the years to come.
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