Mike Cornick has long been respected as one of the pioneers of catchy, jazz-based music which is as ideal for adults playing the piano for relaxed enjoyment as it is for educational use.
In this review I will look at his two latest publications, starting with the recently published intermediate collection Blues in Two and more…
Blues in two…
Blues in Two has become something of a signature tune for Cornick, its dulcet tones and lilting melody line beloved around the world. Since its publication in 1994, the piece has appeared in numerous collections and graded examination syllabi in the UK and Australia.
When I saw the title of this new collection, then, my first thought was that it would be a retrospective Greatest Hits collection. In fact, this is a set of 11 brand new compositions, prefaced by the aforementioned and ubiquitous Blues in Two, presumably as an aide-memoire to help sell the collection.
“Ah yes – Blues in Two – know it well!
I wonder what his latest pieces are like?”
Well let’s find out…
First things first. Blues in Two opens the book, and is one of the easiest pieces here. The book is advertised as being suitable for intermediate players, around UK Grade 3-5 level; as Blues in Two was famously and repeatedly a Grade 3 piece, I think the levelling is exactly right; most pieces in the book are around Grade 4 level of difficulty.
Stylistically, there’s plenty of contrast and variety here, including Swing pieces (Streetwise, A Minor Mix-up, and the delicious Waltz of the Honey Bee), Ragtime (A Ragtime Sketch), a lyrical Ballad (A Simple Air), the self-explanatory Five in a Bar, and a decent smattering of Latin (A Little Conga, A Minor Tango, Chordal Calypso and Sequential Samba).
And you’ll gather from these titles that Cornick is out to maximise the educational value of each piece, too. Commendably, and a real selling point for some, the pieces are all brilliantly designed to fit comfortably under the hand, and unlike some music of this ilk the pieces are all suitable for smaller hands too.
As you might expect, clichès are frequent, and perhaps necessary for conveying stylistic tropes, but there is plenty of interest and originality too; there are several stand-out pieces, but really none in the collection left me disappointed, and I can easily see myself using this book successfully with pupils of all ages.
As well as their high educational value, the adult enthusiast who enjoys sitting down at the piano to relax with some lighter, jazz-infused pieces will find plenty of enjoyment here; the Cornick catalogue already includes so many gems, but Blues in Two and more is a fine addition.
If you are familiar with Universal Edition’s recent Cornick publication you’ll know what to expect from the book: it has a cover that is as robust as it is eye-catching, large white pages with super engraving and well-spaced notation. There’s a short Preface by the composer, whose other publications are listed at the rear.
Cornick has always been great at adding those little details to his scores which highlight the stylistic quirks involved in playing jazzy pieces with convincing panache. These are all as carefully and thoughtfully reproduced as ever, adding to the value of a collection which is already musically so strong.
Lastly, Cornick’s fingering suggestions are not only welcome but hugely useful, capping off an exemplary publication.
If you are looking for a fresh and well-written collection of jazzy pieces for the intermediate pianist, Blues in Two and more should certainly be on your shortlist.
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