The Jazzin’ About Anthology

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

When I began teaching in the 1990’s, Pam Wedgwood’s Jazzin’ About books were very much the rage, the latest thing that every student wanted to play. The series (as it then was) comprised just a handful of books, but over the years it has burgeoned and in the process clocked up more than half a million sales. Wedgwood’s pieces have become perennial favourites.

Latest addition, The Jazzin’ About Piano Anthology, brings together 41 of Pam’s favourite pieces from across the series, presented progressively in one volume from early elementary to intermediate level (UK Initial to Grade 5). Publishers Faber Music tell us that the book includes six new pieces specially composed for this edition, plus duets and online demonstration audio performed by the composer.

“So take a break from the classics and get into the groove as you cruise from blues, to rock, to jazz!”

Let’s dig in…

Pam’s Collection

In her characteristically inviting Introduction to the book, Wedgwood tells us,

“When I was asked to compile an anthology of pieces from the entire Jazzin’ About series, it transported me back to the beginning of my composing career: the very first Jazzin’ About collection of piano and keyboard pieces was printed in 1989! A memorable start, and an association with my publishers that was to last for many years. Together, we produced several Jazzin’ About books, each one carefully crafted to provide playable and enjoyable styles to suit each level of performance and learning.”

At the back of the anthology, the titles in the series are listed, and include 40 collections, of which 17 are for piano solo or duet. Nevertheless, this doesn’t include my recent favoutite Easy Jazzin’ About the Year, reviewed here, which has become a huge hit with my students. So I can’t be sure of the finally tally!

Regardless, from this extraordinary series, Wedgwood has personally selected the following 41 titles for inclusion in this bumper collection:

  • Ping-pong
  • Big fat beats
  • In the Groove
  • In The Eyes Of A Tiger
  • Turn out the lights
  • Blues on Broadway
  • Your First Hit Single
  • The Ghost Of Candlewick Hall
  • 5th Avenue
  • Tide Going Out
  • Tide Coming In
  • Cutting Edge
  • Waltz Of The Witches
  • Contra-flow!
  • Holly
  • The ballad of Sluefoot Sue
  • The odd sock
  • Motorway Blues
  • Jemima Jane
  • There ain’t no beer in Cow-horn Creek!
  • Forget-me-not
  • Deck the Halls
  • Rip tide
  • Take It From Here
  • September Song
  • Pink Lady
  • Bus Stop Boogie
  • Good king Wenceslas
  • Bottle Bank Boogie
  • Elite Syncopations
  • On The Rocks!
  • Save The Whale Waltz
  • Chocolate Car-Park
  • Blow-a-way Blues
  • Steppe On It!
  • Monty The Moocher
  • Snappy dresser!
  • Jack in a jukebox
  • Charley girl
  • Green Is Beautiful
  • Show Girl

Students who have so enjoyed Easy Jazzin’ About the Year will notice four titles from that brilliant collection are included here, suggesting that the composer is equally fond of those pieces.

But the collection includes a fair spread of pieces from all the main Jazzin’ About books, including a few that for me are quite the blast from the past: Take It From Here, Pink Lady and Jack in a Jukebox were student favourites from the very first publication, while September Song has been another popular choice over the years. Wedgwood’s superb arrangements of Christmas favourites also bring back many fond memories!

Alongside these chestnuts, several pieces here are new to me (and equally enjoyable), while some will be new to everyone: suffice to say that the six new compositions are a great addition to the Jazzin’ About canon!

Faber’s Publication

The Jazzin’ About Anthology is a classy production with a soft matt card cover illustrated in the series style. A 72-page book, it could well have been bound with staples; instead, Faber have opted for a stiff spine, but nevertheless the review copy sat nicely on the music stand with little persuasion.

Within, the book is generously and spaciously presented. The inner title and credits pages lead to Wedgwood’s Introduction, and the Contents is afforded two pages, listing both page numbers and track numbers for the accompanying audio.

The latter listing is useful, because the four included duet pieces appear twice, firstly as a complete demo and then as a practice track including just the teacher duet part, so knocking the track numbers out of sequence. The recordings are accessed from the Faber Music website, either by navigating the usual audio download page there, or by scanning the QR code.

Each score is preceded by brief playing tips, which are a useful guide. Though printed on Faber’s usual white paper, the notation is generally well spaced and I found most pieces easy to read. There is a sensible smattering of fingering throughout, as per the original publications in the series.

Closing Thoughts

The Jazzin’ About series is one of the undeniable classics of the modern piano education repertoire, and teachers who have somehow missed out on this music should certainly waste no time in picking up this new anthology as an all-purpose introductory collection of many of the best pieces.

That said, it’s a testament to the enduring quality and value of Wedgwood’s music that I can think of plenty of other great pieces I would have liked to see included! If, having sampled the material collected here, you find yourself wanting to invest in the earlier books from the series, don’t blame me!

The highest accolade is of course that Wedgwood’s music continues to win with players of all levels. As she notes in her introduction:

“I have always worked on the theory that if you can offer your student a good solid melody that is accessible at their standard, you will succeed as a teacher, and hopefully, your students will respond.”

Rather simplistic though this may sound, I broadly agree with the sentiment, and Pam Wedgwood certainly knows how to deliver a good tune!

The Jazzin’ About Piano Anthology is a superb publication which I can truly recommend without reservation.

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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.