Tim Richards is rightly regarded as one of the UK’s leading jazz and blues pianists/educators.
As a pianist, Tim has been a presence on the international music scene since the early 1980s, touring with his long-running trio and leading larger groups Spirit Level and Great Spirit, appearing at festivals opposite names such as John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis and Horace Silver. He has released more than a dozen albums as a leader.
As an educator, Tim came to the attention of many through his stunning blues piano method, Improvising Blues Piano in 1997, and it’s follow-ups Exploring Jazz Piano (vols. 1 and 2) which won the prestigious MIA Award for “Best Pop Publication” in 2006. He has subsequently co-authored Exploring Latin Piano and the Brazilian Piano Collection.
As well as being a prolific writer, Tim has been an ABRSM Jazz Examiner since 1999, contributing to their jazz grade syllabus, and he leads jazz classes and workshops widely.
His most recent publication, Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection, received the following praise in my Pianodao review:
“Tim’s latest publication is an instant classic, earning an immediate place at the top table. These are deeply felt, expertly realised and above all authentic pieces that will not only hopefully open up the world of blues piano playing to a new wave of enthusiasts, but which are classics in their own right…
“Tim Richards Blues, Boogie and Gospel Collection proves itself not simply as the best “jazz piano” publication of the year, but probably the best of the decade so far.
Following such tall praise, can his brand new book Tim Richards Jazz, Latin and Modern Collection possibly live up to expectations? Let’s find out …
15 Pieces for Solo Piano
At its core, Tim Richards Jazz, Latin and Modern Collection is a new set of 15 solo pieces, aimed at late intermediate to advanced players.
Just as the Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection offered additional music for lovers of Tim’s initial blues method book, so this new collection complements and expands on his previous Jazz and Latin method books. And as with the Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection the pieces here are organised in ascending order of difficulty, so that the player can easily access suitable material, dip in up to their level, and return for more when ready.
According to publishers Schott Music :
“This collection is aimed at pianists looking to explore these styles in more depth, or those looking to expand their musical horizons – an ideal accompaniment to other Tim Richards publications.”
The book includes 13 original pieces by Tim, and his new arrangements of standards by two of the most iconic composers in jazz: Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington.
Between them, the pieces impressively channel a range of grooves and jazz traditions. To give an idea, here’s the full list of pieces, with their style shown in brackets (as described in the contents):
- Three Cats (3/4 jazz)
- Rain Again (Jazz/Contemporary)
- Seven-League Boots (Latin, 3-2 clave)
- Smiling (Jazz)
- Stripy Socks (Funky)
- Well You Needn’t – Thelonious Monk (Bebop)
- Chagall (Contemporary)
- Pandeiro (Bossa)
- Island Hopping (Calypso)
- Fish Wish (Contemporary)
- Come Sunday – Duke Ellington (Ballad)
- Discovery (Jazz)
- Seraglio (Samba)
- Ziggurat (Modal Jazz)
- Triskelion (Contemporary)
Tim also explains:
“Several of the pieces here somewhat blur the boundary between jazz and classical music, and would sit well in any contemporary piano programme.”
All of the pieces include a scored “head”, and fully notated “solo” section. Tim explains in the Preface to the collection:
“As with Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection, I have included transcriptions of my improvised solos, rather than giving suggested note choices in boxes. These solos are intended to provide you with a starting point for your own improvisations. On the audio tracks that accompany the book I’ll often repeat the solo ad-lib beyond what’s notated. Trying to copy some of these passages yourself can provide excellent ear-training.”
Playing through the collection, I personally found this worked really well. Tim’s own solos, as an experienced pro player, really do show the way forward; but they also provided musical suggestions that I was keen to further explore as I improvised my own solos.
Regarding such improvisation, it’s useful that Schott Music have included chord symbols above the notation: these are really helpful when departing from Tim’s notated solos to imagine and extemporise one’s own.
Unsurprisingly, the pieces throughout this collection are uniformly excellent, brilliantly encapsulating their various styles, while adding to the literature as rewarding, individual pieces in their own right.
Additional Content and Presentation
As with the companion Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection, this new collection is intended first-and-foremost as a book of pieces rather than a method book. However, once again Tim has proved unable to resist the urge to share top-quality tips and helpful advice about playing this music!. Just as the Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection included several pages of such advice at the rear of the book, so does the Tim Richards Jazz, Latin and Modern Collection.
This time, the all-new material covers the topics, “chord symbols and chord voicing” (four pages), “scales, modes and pentatonics” (six pages).
This is outstanding material, and another reminder that if there is such a thing as a “gift of teaching”, Tim has it in spades. His explanations are genuinely helpful, covering complex terrain with admirably concise clarity, although for a full understanding this book doesn’t replace the need for his larger method publications.
As for the product itself, the book is as beautifully produced as ever, albeit replacing the glossy paper used for previous Tim Richards volumes with standard white paper. And the audio is delivered digitally via the website, instead of the CD recordings included with the former books. Those changes in no way diminish this publication though; everything about the book positively screams quality!
Tim Richards Jazz, Latin and Modern Collection is also a more substantial book than the Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection, up from the 52 pages of the former to a generous 76 pages.
It seems only fair to alert readers to all the minor niggles and shortcomings of this publication. But there simply aren’t any, at least that I could find. Tim has once again delivered an ace.
At its heart, Tim Richards Jazz, Latin and Modern Collection is really all about the pieces themselves. And the real joy of Tim’s music here – as in his previous publications – is that it is both hugely educational but also such great fun to play.
Anyone with the slightest interest in learning to play or teach jazz piano should really acquire a set of Tim’s books. And Tim Richards Jazz, Latin and Modern Collection is a very worthy addition to his catalogue.
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