How to Play Jazz Piano

Sheet Music Review

It’s turned into a great Autumn for players and students of jazz piano!

Already this week I have reviewed  Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Jazz Piano Solos  (Alfred Music) and  Tim Richards’ Jazz, Latin and Modern Collection  (Schott Music) – both outstanding.

Now let’s see whether Pam Wedgwood’s How to Play Jazz Piano, published by Faber Music this week, can make it a hat-trick.

The book aims to provide a solid introduction to jazz playing and claims to be ideal for young players with a basic knowledge of how to play the piano (approximately Grade 2 standard)”.

As a standalone course suitable for players at this level, there is little competition – perhaps the nearest comparison would be with the (excellent) support materials for the ABRSM Jazz Piano syllabus.

So far, so interesting, so let’s take a closer look …


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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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Solo Xtreme Books 4-6

Sheet Music Review

Barely were the pixels dry on  my review of Solo Xtreme Books 1 – 3  when Books 4 – 6 landed on my door mat.

My favourable impression and comments about the first three books equally apply to all these – and indeed, the presentation, feel, quality and target audience for Books 4 – 6 is unchanged. The concept here, too, is a simple extension of the earlier collections.

Please therefore consider this review an addendum to the previous one, and be sure to read that first.

Like the previous books, each book includes a selection of new compositions which are billed as “X-traordinary and Challenging Piano Pieces”.

The levels covered by Books 4 – 6 are:

  • Book 4: Early Intermediate to Intermediate (ABRSM Grade 3)
  • Book 5: Intermediate to Late Intermediate (Grades 4-5)
  • Book 6: Late Intermediate to Early Advanced (around Grade 6)

Grade equivalents are necessarily vague, because as with the previous books they are not so much designed to fit snuggly into any particular assessment system, but rather to bust out the player beyond their current level.

What remains to be written, then, is an evaluation of the music in these new collections…

Continue reading Solo Xtreme Books 4-6

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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Mystery Piano

Sheet Music Review

Of the many new piano collections reviewed here on Pianodao over the last couple of years, one of the smaller number to make a particular impact within my own teaching studio has been Hans-Günter Heumann’s Fantasy Piano, reviewed here, which has become a firm favourite with early-intermediate players. Pieces such as Rainbow Fairy and The Sunken Island of Atlantis have started to appear in our regular student concerts, and clearly appeal to players and audiences alike.

Heumann has now produced a brand new collection – a sequel, again published by Schott Music, called Mystery Piano. So let’s see how it compares…

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The Graded Piano Player

Sheet Music Review

The Graded Piano Player is a series of three books from Faber Music, comprising arrangements of well-known tunes specially arranged by leading educationalists for pianists from around ABRSM Grade 1-5 level.

Published back in 2016, the books return to the spotlight as two of these arrangements – Close Every Door from Book 1 and Wouldn’t it be loverly from Book 2 – have been selected for ABRSM’s brilliant new 2019/20 syllabus (which Karen Marshall and I reviewed here).

When pieces are selected from the “alternatives lists”, there’s always a danger that a pupil might be expected to purchase a separate book from which they will only ever play a single piece – so teachers, parents and students will undoubtedly be interested to hear what the rest of the book is like, and in this instance the rest of the series.

With that in mind, let’s take a look …

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Garreth Brooke’s “Upright” Project

“Upright” is a piano project with a difference …

I spoke to project coordinator, Garreth Brooke to find out more…

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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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Piano Sketches & Duets

Sheet Music Review

With so many great new educational piano music publications on the market, it is becoming easy to miss or overlook some genuinely top-drawer material.

And of the many collections to be published over the last few years, Vitalij Neugasimov’s two books of Piano Sketches are among those that you really DON’T want to miss!

Publishers Oxford University Press (OUP) have now added two new volumes of duets to the series, appropriately titled Piano Sketches Duets 1 and 2 – providing the perfect opportunity to explore the whole series.

OUP do seem to have the midas touch when it comes to selecting sure-fire winners to publish – their many best-sellers include the Nikki Iles Jazz Series, Janet & Alan Bullard’s brilliant Pianoworks, and of course Pauline Hall’s Piano Time range of method books, which despite stiff competition retain the crown as the UK’s favourite piano tutor books.

So let’s see whether the Piano Sketches series compares favourably …

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Piano Exotico, Tranquillo & Vivace!

Sheet Music Review

The indomitable and much-loved Barbara Arens has recently added two new titles to her Breitkopf & Hārtel catalogue, which already includes One Hand Piano, 21 Amazingly Easy Pieces and Piano Misterioso.

The double-barrelled Piano Tranquillo/Vivace has already been reviewed here briefly a while ago, but I will take another look here. First, however, let’s take a look at the latest edition to the series, the marvellous Piano Exotico

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