Tim Richards’ Jazz, Latin & Modern Collection

Sheet Music Review

Tim Richards is rightly regarded as one of the UK’s leading jazz and blues pianists/educators.

As a pianist, Tim has been a presence on the international music scene since the early 1980s, touring with his long-running trio and leading larger groups Spirit Level and Great Spirit, appearing at festivals opposite names such as John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis and Horace Silver. He has released more than a dozen albums as a leader.

As an educator, Tim came to the attention of many through his stunning blues piano method, Improvising Blues Piano in 1997, and it’s follow-ups Exploring Jazz Piano (vols. 1 and 2) which won the prestigious MIA Award for “Best Pop Publication” in 2006. He has subsequently co-authored Exploring Latin Piano and the Brazilian Piano Collection.

As well as being a prolific writer, Tim has been an ABRSM Jazz Examiner since 1999, contributing to their jazz grade syllabus, and he leads jazz classes and workshops widely.

His most recent publication, Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection, received the following praise in my Pianodao review:

“Tim’s latest publication is an instant classic, earning an immediate place at the top table. These are deeply felt, expertly realised and above all authentic pieces that will not only hopefully open up the world of blues piano playing to a new wave of enthusiasts, but which are classics in their own right…
Tim Richards Blues, Boogie and Gospel Collection proves itself not simply as the best “jazz piano” publication of the year, but probably the best of the decade so far.

Following such tall praise, can his brand new book Tim Richards Jazz, Latin and Modern Collection possibly live up to expectations? Let’s find out …

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Big Phat Jazz Piano Solos

Sheet Music Review

Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band have, since forming in 1999, carved out a huge reputation for themselves as an 18-piece big band, playing traditional 1930/40s swing through to more recent fusion and funky jazz. They have recorded several albums and notched up multiple Grammy Awards.

Several publications have been issued over the years, including lead-sheets and backing tracks for popular Big Phat Band favourites.

But with Big Phat Jazz Piano Solos, his latest publication from Alfred Music, Goodwin has taken a different approach, offering stylish intermediate piano solo versions of some of the band’s most enduring tunes.

According to Gordon Goodwin in his introduction to the book:

“The pieces in this book are piano solo adaptations of the most popular Big Phat Band titles that I have written over the years, arranged at an intermediate to later intermediate level. Preparing music for less experienced musicians presents a challenge. I worked to capture the essence of the Big Phat Band versions of these songs, while making the music technically manageable yet interesting. The goal was to create arrangements that are musically challenging without being overwhelming.”

I’ll take a look at the book in a moment, and consider whether I feel Goodwin has succeeded in his goals, but first I should note that in addition to the book itself, Goodwin has recorded a series of performance and tutorial videos, available to watch freely on Alfred’s YouTube channel.

These videos promise to add enormously to the value of this project, so I will start by taking a look at them…

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All About Neefe

Sheet Music Review

I often remind pupils and friends that the piano repertoire is an extraordinary treasury, and one which after several lifetimes of exploration would still yield up new gems and discoveries.

As if to prove the point, when I returned from a recent break in Moniaive I was surprised and delighted to see – among the packages awaiting me back at home – a splendid hardbound volume of piano music by Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748-1798), submitted for possible review by distributer Universal Edition on behalf of publisher Edition Dohr Köln.

Neefe’s name might be recognised by some as the composer of a charming Menuetto featured in ABRSM Grade 1 piano a few years ago.

But those who search the more distant recesses of their memories may recall mentioning him in their school-day essays about Beethoven; Neefe was young Ludwig’s principal piano teacher in Bonn.

As such, Neefe’s own compositions surely played a significant role in the latter’s music education, and thus attract peculiar interest. To what extent does his music inform Beethoven’s – and stand as a precursor to it?

Furthermore, as Beethoven’s piano teacher, Neefe himself joins the pianist lineage of those many of us who have traced our teaching line back to Liszt, Beethoven and beyond. This again adds personal resonance, however vague, in discovering his music.

So join me, and let’s find out more …

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Wiener Urtext: ‘Primo’ Series

Sheet Music Review

“Easy” collections of the core classical piano repertoire abound, but few bring to the table the depth of scholarship, reliable editing, fingering and expert advice found in the recent (and ongoing) “Urtext Primo” series.

As the latest collection in the series – featuring the music of Clementi, Czerny and Cramer – hits the shelves of music stores worldwide, let’s take a look …

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Albéniz: Cantos de España

Sheet Music Review

As I write this, the UK is one of many countries in the grip of a historic heat-wave. Suffice to say that when the weather here turns Mediterranean in feel, I have a tendency to uncork a fine bottle of Rioja and reach for the Albéniz CDs.

The piano music of Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909), it seems to me, occupies a uniquely odd position in the classical piano repertoire.

On the one hand he would seem to be universally admired, his monumental series of 12 piece Iberia roundly hailed as one of the seminal masterpieces at the very pinnacle of the “core repertoire” (and yet rarely performed or recorded!). On the other hand, many pianists complete their lifetime journey at the piano without once opening one of his scores.

As well as the stunning Iberia cycle, don’t miss the gorgeous Suite Española Op.47, scenic Recuerdo de Viaje Op.71, accessible España Op.165 and the brilliant Cantos de España Op.232. All are easily available as sheet music scores.

A brand new edition of the last listed of these works has recently been issued in the Alfred Masterworks Edition library, so let’s take a closer look.

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Schubert’s “Fantasy Sonata” in G major

Sheet Music Review

20th March 1989 is embedded in my memory as the evening on which I attended one of the most magical classical piano recitals!

Although I was seated in the balcony, and towards the back of London’s Royal Festival Hall, I could just as well have been sat in the front row, such was the silent rapture of the audience. In semi darkness, lit by just one small lamp, the legendary Sviatoslav Richter quitly took to the stage and opened the recital with the hushed tones of a simple but fully-fleshed G major chord.

At this point in his career, Richter had given up announcing his programme – which didn’t stop tickets for his recitals from selling out within minutes of going on sale. But that opening chord was sufficient to announce to the pianophile audience that we were about to be served a very special musical treat:

Schubert’s magical “Fantasy Sonata” in G major, Op.78, D.894.

In Richter’s hands, this joyous work took on a new dimension – and not least because of his controversially slow interpretation of the first movement, lasting a full 25 minutes (compared to the more usual 15 – in Wilhelm Kempff’s recording this movement lasts just 10’54”, albeit omitting the repeats).

While I love Schubert’s Sonatas as a whole, the G major is perhaps even more dear to me than the others because of this much-treasured memory. So I was delighted when the brand new Bärenreiter Urtext edition dropped onto my door mat for review …

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Ultimate Piano Solos

Sheet Music Review

Faber Music have been producing a steady flow of printed compilations of piano music for some time, with a focus on bringing together pieces from films, arrangements of hit songs, and popular classical favourites.

Latest addition, Ultimate Piano Solos boasts “over 50 bestsellers” and offers an appealing selection of mainstream favourites that most people will instantly recognise.

Keenly priced at just £15.99 it offers excellent value, and is perhaps the ideal collection for the enthusiastic player at around Grade 5 level who wants to grow their repertoire of popular favourites.

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Latin & Jazz Preludes

Sheet Music Review

Much-loved composer Christopher Norton turned 65 this June, and while celebrating the milestone, long-time publishers Boosey & Hawkes issued newly repackaged editions of his hugely popular Latin Preludes Collection and Jazz Preludes Collection, complete with accompanying CDs featuring newly-recorded demonstration performances by pianist Iain Farrington, who also delivered the recordings included with the more recent Eastern Preludes and Pacific Preludes Collections.

What better time to reappraise these publications?

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Christopher Norton’s “Connections for Piano”

Sheet Music Review

Connections for Piano is a series of eight books which between them offer a staggering 185 original compositions by wildly popular educational composer Christopher Norton.

Originally published for the North American market by Frederick Harris Music, the series has now been republished worldwide by Norton’s own in-house publishing company, 80 Days Publishing.

In this review I will offer an overview of the series, as well as explaining how the new product slightly differs from the original FJH incarnation.

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Christopher Norton’s “Idaho Suite”

Sheet Music Review

A few months ago I shared news here of Christopher Norton’s new in-house publishing company 80 Days Publishing, reviewing the first piano solo work to emerge – the excellent Jazz Piano Sonata.

Since that review, Christopher has been busying himself both as a composer and publisher, collating piano works and other compositions for publication through this growing business.

In this review I will highlight a few of the latest publications, starting with a particular focus on the Idaho Suite for solo piano. 

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