Much-loved composer Christopher Norton turned 65 this June, and while celebrating the milestone, long-time publishers Boosey & Hawkes issued newly repackaged editions of his hugely popular Latin Preludes Collection and Jazz Preludes Collection, complete with accompanying CDs featuring newly-recorded demonstration performances by pianist Iain Farrington, who also delivered the recordings included with the more recent Eastern Preludes and Pacific Preludes Collections.
What better time to reappraise these publications?..
Jazz Preludes Collection
First published in 2006, Christopher Norton’s Jazz Preludes Collection features 14 original Preludes in a variety of jazz styles inspired by the legendary pioneers of the jazz world.
Publishers Boosey & Hawkes invite us to:
“Take in the syncopated rhythms of Ragtime in Missouri and the melancholy of Blues songs in the Deep South, step into the swinging clubs and dancehalls of New Orleans, Chicago and New York and groove to the pulsating rhythms of Latin-American carnivals in these characteristically innovative compositions…”
Each of the pieces includes a brief note by the composer about its background and composition, in some cases also referencing specific influences and players. These notes were newly written for this edition, and are a most helpful addition.
As with all of Christopher Norton’s Preludes Collections, the Jazz Preludes Collection is suitable for players at early advanced level, ABRSM Grades 6-8.
There is a tasty mix of faster and more lyrical pieces – the former exploring ragtime, stride, swing and Charleston flavours, the most extroverted of which is surely Chicken Feed whose insistent fusion rhythms underpin some quasi-improvisatory blues licks in the right hand. More lyrical accents shine in the varied ballads liberally sprinkled throughout the collection, predominantly romantic in hue, offering plenty of opportunity to develop more reflective, expressive jazz inflections.
The new edition is stunningly presented, with a slick eye-catching cover to match those of the more recent additions to the series:
The music engraving is exceptionally clear and well-spaced, although the included fingering suggestions are minimal in places, and somewhat random (to be fair, in this style of music players really need to discover patterns for the chord playing which suit their hand size and shape).
The included CD generously features not only Iain Farrington’s lovely solo performances, but also the original Band Demonstration Tracks (which include a piano demo with the full band arrangements) and Band Backing Tracks (for playing along to, in which the piano is removed).
Latin Preludes Collection
The Latin Preludes Collection is a similarly enhanced new edition of an earlier publication, this time dating from 2005. (Although not promised, I would love to see the other two issues in this series similarly repackaged soon – the Rock Preludes Collection and Country Preludes Collection).
Once again, the publishers provide an evocative description of the contents, tempting us to:
“Soak up the vibrant Brazilian carnival atmosphere with the Samba and the Bossa Nova, step into the clubs and dancehalls of Cuba to take in the pulsating rhythms of the Mambo and the sultry Rumba, and unwind to the relaxed sound of the Caribbean Beguine …”
Sadly, flights and hotel accommodations aren’t included, but with Iain Farrington again on hand to demonstrate these fabulous pieces on the accompanying CD, we can at least be transported in our imaginations!
Once again, too, the CD generously also includes Band Demonstration and Backing Tracks, which are a blast to play along with, significantly amplifying the enjoyment that this wonderful publication offers. Hearing these pieces with genuine Latin grooves is also of tremendous educational value – indeed, it is essential.
The book provides an excellent introduction to these fabulous and colourful styles for those not acquainted with them, Christopher Norton as ever proving to be as consummate an expert in his attention to stylistic detail and rhythmic nuance as he is inspired in his creative genius.
Worth noting too that this publication includes the Mambo selected for the new 2019/20 ABRSM Grade 7 syllabus – and what a relief that Christopher’s newly written performance note so closely concurs with the suggestions I wrote for the ABRSM Teaching Notes book! Phew…
And so to conclude, these two classic books have been reborn better than ever! There’s only one conceivable verdict for both: they are equally outstanding!