Mike Cornick has a long-established reputation as the master of what might once have been called “light music”: easy-going melodic pieces offering a smooth blend of classical, jazz and popular styles, equally accessible to player and listener alike.
I have previously reviewed many of Cornick’s publications, including the more jazzy collections Blues in Two and more, Ragtime Blues and more and Six Jazz Piano Solos, as well as his duet collections Elgar Favourites and Dinner for Two, titles from which you will probably already have deduced Cornick’s musical versatility and the basis of his significant mainstream appeal.
Cornick’s latest collection is called A Piano Sketchbook, and offers a pot-pourri of six assorted intermediate piano solos in a range of jazz and Latin styles…
A Small Collection
Here’s what the composer says in the Preface to his new collection:
“A Piano Sketchbook began life as a small collection of pieces which were composed during the recent ‘lockdown’. In addition, time spent browsing through older computer files led to the pleasing rediscovery of a number of ideas for pieces from a while back, two of which have now been fully developed and finally see the light of day in this book. The resulting selection is shared in the hope that players of broadly intermediate level will find the content both stimulating and enjoyable.”
Cornick’s modest introduction seems entirely fair, and I certainly enjoyed playing through these six pieces, titled:
- Valse Mystique
- The Trapeze Artist
- Tango Alla Breve
- For Evie
- Riding High
- Latin Lullaby
The opening piece artfully combines bars written in 6/4 and 5/4 time to weave a piece whose sentimental melody alludes to the waltz without quite conforming to it. The Trapeze Artist continues the whimsical character, this time with an easy swing tempo and feel, and in a style that Cornick fans will be well-used to.
Tango Alla Breve lives up to its title with a piece that hints at the passion of the dance, while using abrupt dynamic changes to stop things getting out of hand. Meanwhile For Evie is a delightful jazz waltz which would make a great introduction to this genre for those who haven’t played one before.
Riding High is a delightful ballad which exudes the carefree spirit that characterises so many of Cornick’s best pieces, and Latin Lullaby delightfully wraps up this brief collection of pieces with a number that may trip up some players, and will require rhythmic care!
The six pieces would eminently suit a player at around UK Grade 4-5 level, and are each two pages long. Detailed fingering is included throughout, adding to the strength of my recommendation. The 16-page book is tastefully and spaciously presented on ivory white paper, and housed in a suitably refined cover.
Mike Cornick’s A Piano Sketchbook is, as so often with this composer, a collection which I can very simply and warmly recommend.
With such a rich back catalogue, it’s less easy to suggest exactly where the player would begin their exploration of his music. Were a more meaty compilation of his best pieces to become available it would undoubtedly be a must-have, but any or all of the six pieces included in A Piano Sketchbook would potentially deserve a place, such is the quality here.
I tend to find that Cornick’s music particularly appeals to adult learners, and I will certainly be recommending this to the players I work with at late intermediate level. I think they will love it, and perhaps you will too!
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