Christmas Songs & Standards: Jazz Piano Solo

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

Last Christmas, I brought you my review of the superb jazz piano collection Jazz Piano Solos: Christmas Classics, a stunner of a publication about which I concluded:

“This book is an easy recommendation to any advanced player who has ever fancied playing popular Christmas music in an enjoyable lounge jazz style. I think that’s a lot of people, spicily catered for here, so this deserves to be hugely popular!”

In that review I also noted that there were two previous titles in Hal Leonard’s consistently brilliant Jazz Piano Solos series awaiting copyright clearance for UK release, so it’s with seasonal cheer that I can confirm both those titles are now also available, and the subject of this review.

Again the work of the impressively prolific talent known as Brent Edstrom, it’s no surprise that they are both simply superb. Read on to find out more…

Jazz Piano Solos

In the ever expanding library of the Jazz Piano Solos series, Christmas Songs is volume 25 while Christmas Standards clocks in as volume 45.

Having introduced this excellent series in a few other reviews, there’s little product information to add about these two additions. As ever, the books are durably made, staple bound, and benefit from a lovely presentation:

  • 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

The series as a whole is suitable for advanced players ranging from around UK Grade 6 to (occasionally) first diploma level, and is especially likely to appeal to enthusiastic adult players and returners interested in playing music in a jazzy style.

The joy of these books is that they make it possible for classically trained players to enjoy success playing fully-fledged arrangements with voicing and figurations in an authentic and distinctively jazzy style.

In the case of both these Christmas volumes, the jazz arrangements would suit notation-reading piano players at around Grades 7-8 level, whether from a traditional or contemporary background, making them suitable for the same players who might also enjoy and be familiar with Nikki Iles’ popular Jazz on a Winter’s Night collections reviewed here.

Christmas Songs

The musical emphasis of Jazz Piano Solos: Christmas Songs is on smooth jazz renditions of seasonal favourites from the mid-twentieth century:

  • A Child Is Born
  • Blue Christmas
  • Christmas Time Is Here
  • The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
  • The Christmas Waltz
  • Happy Holiday
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  • Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)
  • (There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays
  • I’ll Be Home For Christmas
  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  • Merry Christmas, Darling
  • My Favorite Things
  • Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer
  • Santa Baby
  • Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
  • Silver Bells
  • Sleigh ride
  • Snowfall
  • White Christmas
  • Winter Wonderland

The arrangements each occupy between 4-6 pages, and range from bright swing to easy-going sentimental nostalgia.

In my home this is exactly what Christmas music is all about, and playing through these pieces has certainly put me in the mood for the season ahead. And while there is inevitably a US-centric choice of songs, almost all are beloved global hits that will be well known to most players.

Jazz Piano Solos: Christmas Songs is therefore another easy recommendation, and I’m looking forward to hearing my students play these breezy arrangements in lessons and in our piano club sessions.

Christmas Standards

Similarly poised to roast your festive chestnuts, Jazz Piano Solos: Christmas Standards picks up where Christmas Songs leaves off, with another finger-licking selection of seasonal favourites:

  • All I Want For Christmas Is You
  • All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth
  • Auld lang Syne
  • Baby, It’s Cold Outside
  • Christmas Is
  • Do You Hear What I Hear
  • Feliz Navidad
  • Frosty The Snow Man
  • A Holly Jolly Christmas
  • I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
  • I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
  • I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
  • It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas
  • Jingle bells
  • Jingle Bell Rock
  • The Little Drummer Boy
  • Mistletoe And Holly
  • The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year
  • The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
  • O Christmas Tree
  • Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
  • Silver And Gold
  • Somewhere In My Memory
  • Suzy Snowflake
  • Toyland
  • We Need a Little Christmas
  • We wish you a merry christmas
  • What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

This is a generous list of 28 great songs which, like the 21 songs in the Christmas Songs publication, are presented in a 96-page book. The notation here is inevitably a little denser, and in a slightly smaller music font. Everything remains splendidly readable though.

I would say that the difficulty of the arrangements here is a gently progressive step up from Christmas Songs, making this an ideal follow-on book for those who have already found delight playing the music in that collection.

Once again, Jazz Piano Solos: Christmas Standards is a joy, and I believe that both these collections will give many hours of pleasure to players and listeners alike.

In a nut(cracker)-shell, your Jazzy Piano Christmas begins here!

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Published by

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.