Classical Jazz Piano Solos

Jazz Piano Solos: Classical Jazz

Featured publications are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

In the last year I have reviewed a couple of titles from Hal Leonard’s popular Jazz Piano Solos series, featuring arrangements suitable for advanced players from the pen of the indefatigable Brent Edstrom:

Proving you can’t keep a good arranger down, the unstoppable Edstrom is back with Jazz Piano Solos Vol. 63, and this time he brings a classical spin to the party…

30 Classical Tunes (with a twist)

All the pieces in this new collection are adaptations of popular classical pieces, given a cocktail jazz piano reworking.

Here’s the list of these latest pieces given the Edstrom treatment:

  • Après Un Rêve (Fauré)
  • Ave Maria (Gounod/Bach)
  • Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Tchaikovsky)
  • Die Forelle (The Trout) (Schubert)
  • Golliwogg’s Cake Walk (Debussy)
  • Habanera (Bizet)
  • Humoresque (Dvořák)
  • Hungarian Dance No.5 (Brahms)
  • If Love’s a Sweet Passion (Purcell)
  • In the Hall of the Mountain King (Grieg)
  • March from “The Nutcracker” (Tchaikovsky)
  • Meditation from Thaïs (Massenet)
  • Musetta’s Waltz from “La Boheme” (Puccini)
  • Music for a While (Purcell)
  • The Old Castle (Mussorgsky)
  • Pavane (Fauré)
  • Prelude in E minor (Chopin)
  • Prelude in C minor (Chopin)
  • Rêverie (Debussy)
  • Rondeau (Purcell)
  • Salut D’Amour (Elgar)
  • Sandmännchen (Brahms)
  • Sarabande in D minor (Handel)
  • Siciliano (Bach)
  • Slavonic Dance (Dvořák)
  • Ständchen (Schubert)
  • The Swan (Saint-Saëns)
  • Symphony No.9: Largo (Dvořák)
  • To a Wild Rose (MacDowell)
  • Träumerei (Schumann)

In all cases the signature content of the original pieces is easily discernible, but has undergone varying degrees of jazzification.

In some cases (for example To A Wild Rose) Edstrom’s fresh adaptations are disconcertingly subtle, while in others he spins mood-setting introductions before recognition sets in, or even entirely reimagines the piece (Tchaikovsky’s twinkling Sugar Plum Fairy is newly conceived as a fabulous swing number here, to superb effect).

In pretty much every case, the difficulty level could be described as Advanced, suitable from around UK Grade 8 or above.

For the pianist about town, performing in restaurants, hotels and other venues, these good humoured and ingenious trifles are pitch perfect; as a sourcebook of material for such gigs, the book is an essential purchase. Across the board, Edstrom’s wry reinventions are impeccable, with a slick professional sophistication which will undoubtedly delight listeners.

Piano enthusiasts will of course also enjoy playing this music as an entertaining diversion, and again these arrangements will make deliciously attention-grabbing fare at piano gatherings and adult piano clubs. I’ve certainly enjoyed having this collection to hand over the last couple of weeks, dipping in regularly for relaxed personal enjoyment.

The Publication

Hal Leonard have a well-established look and feel for this ever-growing series, so those who have previous volumes will know exactly what to expect:

  • A classy card cover with glossy photo
  • A contents page but no other extras
  • Clearly presented music engraving
  • Jazz chord symbols above the stave
  • No fingering suggestions

This particular volume has 96 pages, and is as usual staple bound; the thin paper is high quality though and the book itself is sturdy. I have no doubt it will stand the test of time, and bring pleasure for years to come.

Closing Thoughts

I find it extraordinary that Brent Edstronm is able to churn out such a quantity and wealth of jazz arrangements year after year, and this new addition to the Jazz Piano Solos series really is no exception.

I’ve seen several superb publications this year, and am running short of hyperbolic compliments, but Classical Jazz is an absurdly good collection. Don’t miss it!

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Published by

Andrew Eales

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