Darren Fellows hails from North Yorkshire and is now based in Cardiff, where he has found a welcome home in Welsh musical life. With a music catalogue that spans more than thirty years, he has written across a broad range of styles, from contemporary concert works, film music, children’s songs to educational jazz music.
Fellows’ latest publication for piano is the deliciously titled Tasty Tunes, a collection of ten jazzy pieces published by Kevin Mayhew Ltd, each sporting a food-based title. The book is suitable for intermediate players (around UK Grades 3-6), and I would suggest predominantly towards the upper end.
These are enjoyable and inventive pieces which could prove popular with players of all ages, so let’s tuck in…
The cover of this new composer collection delivers an enticing invitation:
“Indulge in a delectable musical feast with Tasty Tunes, an enticing piano book featuring 10 original food-themed pieces, perfect for aspiring pianists at intermediate level… This whimsical collection takes your taste buds on a tantalising journey through a diverse culinary landscape of melodies and harmonies. Whether you’re a budding musician or a piano teacher looking for engaging repertoire, this book will enthral and captivate, leaving you craving for more musical delicacies. Bon appétit!”
The titles of the pieces in Fellows’ book immediately reveal the sense of fun that pervades the collection:
- Bangers ‘n’ Mash
- Hot Potato!
- Noodle Around!
- Fish ‘n’ Chip Walk
- Hurry with the Curry!
- Funky Fajita
- Hot Dog!
- Sweet Apple Pie
- A Soulful Sundae
- Watermelon Dreams
They also serve as a series of clues that point to the musical styles found here. which range from easy swing to rock and Latin grooves.
That said, an interesting aspect of these pieces is that they have a broader musical language which often eschews expectations. For example, the underlying chord progressions in several pieces have a habit of taking player and listener alike by surprise, with chromatic twists that certainly avoid cliché.
As such, those looking for pieces which introduce the more typical tropes of jazz piano playing might want to look elsewhere, but these pieces will appeal to those who enjoy something a little more creatively surprising and sophisticated. Fellows’ approach rather reminds me of collections by versatile musicians such as Brian Bonsor, Mike Cornick, Stephen Duro, Alan Haughton and others who have produced interesting, jazz-infused compositions over the years.
As for the titles, these are no mere add-on for saleability. Each is brought to life by its musical depiction, and could leave you feeling a bit peckish. Players of all ages will quickly catch the imaginative drift and surely engage with the infectiously good humoured appeal.
Composer collections from Kevin Mayhew Ltd appear to be simple affairs in general, and this is no exception. The cover artwork in this case is brilliantly vivid, and is reproduced on soft card with a matt finish, while the 24 pages within are printed on bright white paper.
Each of the ten pieces is afforded a two-page spread, so that page turns are avoided throughout the book. The other pages are for the title and contents, and aside from the blurb on the back cover (quoted above), there’s no further introduction from the composer.
The notation is cleanly engraved by the ever-reliable Donald Thomson (who also engraves for Faber Music and EVC Music among others), and uses a clean well-spaced music font. Helpful fingering suggestions and detailed performance directions are included throughout.
At this point I would love to include a recording or two but alas, at the time of writing there appear to be none online. I should note that the book is hardly inexpensive for what it is, and it’s a pity there is no preview content, audio or other downloads which might more readily have encouraged investment.
Given that the market for intermediate jazzy piano books is a somewhat crowded one, Fellows deserves a round of applause for producing a collection which is distinctive, intelligent, great fun, and likely to stand the test of time.
These pieces are as rewarding as they are enjoyable, and I am sure that they will bring wide and wry smiles to the faces of later intermediate players, teachers and audiences wherever they are played. This publication makes a welcome addition.
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