Boogie Woogie Piano Solos

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

Of all the jazz styles, boogie woogie surely sits at the “unabashed fun” end of the spectrum, with a musical appeal, approachable good-nature and lack of pretensions that invites classical players as well as jazz-devotees to get down and have a go.

Intermediate players who want to boogie are well catered for by the likes of William Gillock, Martha Meir and Mike Cornick, while for the advancing player Tim Richards’ Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection (reviewed here) is a great resource.

Meanwhile, those who want to master the style at the highest level and play transcriptions of the classics will welcome the latest addition to Hal Leonard’s Jazz Piano Solos series.

Volume 60 is simply titled Boogie Woogie, and this new collection is terrific: more advanced players will absolutely love it.

21 Classic Boogie Woogie Tracks

Fans of Hal Leonard’s Jazz Piano Solos will be pleased but unsurprised to read that the selections have been superbly arranged by series regular Brent Edstrom, who continues to demonstrate a stunning talent in this niche.

For this collection, Edstrom has brought together a series of milestones from the greats of the boogie woogie genre. The contents page lists selected recording artists we can listen to for added inspiration, and in order to imbibe the nuances of the style.

Here’s the list, with the suggested artists in brackets:

  • Barrelhouse Breakdown (Pete Johnson)
  • Bass Gone Crazy (Albert Ammons)
  • Bass On Top (Meade “Lux” Lewis)
  • Boogie Woogie Blues (Albert Ammons)
  • Boogie Woogie Man (Pete Johnson & Albert Ammons)
  • Boogie Woogie Stomp (Albert Ammons)
  • Chicago Breakdown (“Big” Maceo Meriweather)
  • Climin’ And Screamin’ (Pete Johnson)
  • Down The Road A-Piece (Freddie Slack)
  • Five O-Clock Blues (Jimmy Yancey)
  • Holler, Stomp (Pete Johnson)
  • Honky Tonk Train (Meade “Lux” Lewis)
  • Kaycee On My Mind (Pete Johnson)
  • Let ‘Em Jump (Pete Johnson)
  • Mess Around (Ray Charles)
  • St. Louis Blues (Albert Ammons)
  • Sixth Ave Express (Pete Johnson & Albert Ammons)
  • State Street Special (Jimmy Yancey)
  • Suitcase Blues (Albert Ammons)
  • Swanee River Boogie (Albert Ammons)
  • Yancy Special (Jimmy Yancey)

Whether interested in purchasing the book, intent on learning the pieces, or simply curious to know more about the genre, it is instructive indeed to listen to these classic recordings. And regardless of life’s other struggles, they are pretty much guaranteed to put a massive smile on your face!

Looking at Edstrom’s arrangements while listening, it is clear that in many cases they are direct transcriptions, a point also explicitly stated on some of the scores. In a few cases, the arrangements here are composites of multiple recordings.

This of course means that when playing the pieces at their recorded speed, one is literally emulating the giant legends of boogie; I can only sensibly add this to the Diploma Repertoire section of the Pianodao Music Library, although advanced players pre-diploma could certainly have a lot of fun trying this music, perhaps at more modest tempi.

The vast majority of the arrangements span four pages, with just a handful that are longer. Organised alphabetically, just a couple of pieces appear out of sequence in order to minimise page turns, which is a particularly smart move given the super-fast tempi of the style.

No fingering suggestions are included, and performing directions are almost non-existent, but this actually seems fair enough given the level of the music and the reference to recorded precedents as aural benchmarks.

Last Word…

If you have long hankered after a collection of boogie woogie transcriptions that faithfully and brilliantly convey the style of this joyous music, this book really is the last word, and you need look no further.

And if you are a high-level classical performer looking for something a bit different – and fabulously exuberant – why not drop one of these pieces as a recital encore?

Truly superb stuff!

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Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, writer and composer based on Milton Keynes UK. His book HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is published by Hal Leonard.