The rise and rise of EVC Music Publications as an exciting and innovative music publisher can’t have escaped the notice of any player or teacher active on social media, and like many I have watched their emergence over the last three years or so with growing interest.
I have previously praised a number of EVC Music’s publications. I am enthusiastic for Andrew Higgins’ excellent Birds: Études-Tableaux and the recent reissue of Graham Lynch’s wonderful Sound Sketches series. And I was delighted to report that the EVC Music Star Prize Event at the Royal Albert Hall last month was such a resounding success!
With the publication of Piano Tales for Alice – a brand new collection of easy pieces by acclaimed jazz performer and composer Nikki Iles – it seems to me that EVC Music has unequivocally arrived as a mature and significant force in music publishing.
Building on their activities thus far, with this publication EVC Music has hit the jackpot, bringing to market a genuine classic…
Nikki Iles will be known to many readers as the jazz composer and arranger responsible for the brilliant Jazz on a Winter’s Night and subsequent series of highly enjoyable themed jazz collections from OUP. She is also well-known from her various contributions to the ABRSM Jazz Piano and standard Piano Syllabus publications, and to the Piano Star series.
In all of these, Nikki has both revealed her authentic jazz voice and shown herself to be attuned to the needs of players at different educational levels. And these qualities are again to the fore in Piano Tales for Alice.
Piano Tales for Alice appears in typical EVC Music house style, with a clean presentation and eye-catching cover.
This publication immediately struck me in terms of its gorgeous layout and tasteful design. There’s a subtlety to the inclusion of timeless illustrations on the front cover and contents page, an authentically quirky character to the piece title lettering, and a thoroughness to the editing and engraving throughout that are exemplary by any industry standards.
I always regard the inclusion and suitability of fingering as an indication of the care taken in a publication, and here it is beyond reproach – just the right amount, and genuinely useful.
This is a larger collection than some EVC Music publications I have seen. With 16 pieces, each of which is one to two pages long, there is plenty of material here for players to get suitably absorbed in.
The book concludes with a page of “Descriptions”. Here the composer offers a paragraph of explanatory background to the pieces, linking them to the text of the Lewis Carroll classics upon which the collection is based. This is excellent, and provides the much needed context and imaginative impetus that allows the music to truly come alive.
Of the sixteen pieces, eight are based on the children’ classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, while the remaining eight take their inspiration from the sequel Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking-Glass.
All of the belovèd characters from these timeless stories are present and correct, from the Cheshire Cat to the Mad-Hatter, from Tweedledee and Tweedledum to the White Rabbit and the Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll’s quirky creations are brought vividly to life through a series of highly imaginative musical illustrations, with pianistic writing that digs into the jazz heritage alongside interludes with more obvious classical and impressionistic reference points. As expected, several of Nikki’s pieces require swing quavers, and this is noted clearly on the score.
There’s a depth of quality here that stands up alongside the very best of Nikki Iles’ previous work, and a range of musical expression that cannot fail to inspire and delight players of all ages, and not simply younger devotees of Lewis Carroll’s books.
The real gift here is Nikki’s ability to successfully tap into nostalgia on multiple levels – musical, imaginative and the magic locked within childhood memory.
The pieces range from around Grade 1 to Grade 3, with most orbiting around Grade 2. The Descriptions at the rear helpfully (and I feel accurately) suggest the individual level of each piece, a welcome touch that will be warmly appreciated by less experienced teachers, while offering useful quick guidance for those of us who are longer-in-the-tooth.
Two pieces in the collection are duets – Song for Alice appears last in the book but is actually the easiest piece (an enjoyable detail!), with a pupil part for just the Right Hand, contained within an octave range from middle C, while the more challenging Pink Flamingos is the brilliant and somehow inevitable cha-cha-cha duet I’ve been waiting years for!
All in all, Piano Tales for Alice is an absolute delight – perhaps EVC Music’s most exciting publication and essential purchase to date. Hats off to publisher Elena Cobb, composer Nikki Iles, and all involved in bringing this exceptional publication to market.
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