Boogie Woogie Piano Solos

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Of all the jazz styles, boogie woogie surely sits at the “unabashed fun” end of the spectrum, with a musical appeal, approachable good-nature and lack of pretensions that invites classical players as well as jazz-devotees to get down and have a go.

Intermediate players who want to boogie are well catered for by the likes of William Gillock, Martha Meir and Mike Cornick, while for the advancing player Tim Richards’ Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection (reviewed here) is a great resource.

Meanwhile, those who want to master the style at the highest level and play transcriptions of the classics will welcome the latest addition to Hal Leonard’s Jazz Piano Solos series (volume 60, and you can explore previous highlights here). Simply titled Boogie Woogie, this new collection is terrific, and more advanced players will absolutely love it.

Continue reading Boogie Woogie Piano Solos

The New, Improved Microjazz

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


It has been four decades since Christopher Norton’s remarkable Microjazz series practically reinvented piano education in this country and beyond with its infectious cocktail of classical technique and popular contemporary stylings.

Microjazz quickly won recognition the world over as a landmark series, sold over a million copies, and spawned a plethora of spin offs that included More Microjazz, Microstyles, Improvise Microjazz, Microjazz Duets and collections for a wider range of instruments.

The repackaging of the piano solo materials as the Microjazz Collections in 1997 simplified the brand, and made the progression through levels more obvious. Those Collections were again rebranded in 2011, and are receiving another facelift from this year. This time, the Microjazz Collections are also joined by two wholly new, more advanced music books.

In this review I will introduce these new stars in the Microjazz galaxy, and consider the latest updates to the existing books.

But first, let’s celebrate this incredible publishing phenomenon by recapping its extraordinary history…

Continue reading The New, Improved Microjazz

Hal Leonard Jazz Piano Solos: Christmas Classics

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Any advanced player with a penchant for jazz and looking for fresh festive fare this holiday season would do well to check out the newly published Christmas Classics, which appears as volume 61 in the Hal Leonard Jazz Piano Solos series and delivers 24 selections arranged by Brent Edstrom.

Since its recent arrival I have been playing my way through these tunes, and have been equally impressed by the variety on offer and by the consistent quality of Edstrom’s arrangements. Here’s my review…

Continue reading Hal Leonard Jazz Piano Solos: Christmas Classics

Jason Sifford’s KEYBOP

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


New from the Willis Music Company, Jason Sifford’s two books of Keybop each offer “11 jazzy solos for the young pianist”.

Not another set of jazzy books for young pianists, I hear you say. But stay with me, because these ones are really worth a look…

Continue reading Jason Sifford’s KEYBOP

Tim Richards: Beginning Jazz Piano

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES • review by ANDREW EALES
Supporting Your Teaching • PATHWAYS FOR TEACHING


Tim Richards is well established as one of the UK’s leading jazz educators, having burst onto the scene with his best-selling book Improvising Blues Piano, which set a new standard in jazz education publishing upon its first release back in 1997.

Since then Richards has produced a steady flow of publications in partnership with Schott Music, including the excellent Exploring Jazz Piano volumes 1 and 2, and more recent Blues, Boogie and Gospel Collection, which I described in my 2016 Pianodao review,

“…not simply as the best “jazz piano” publication of the year, but probably the best of the decade so far.”

Now he’s back with two chunky new books. Beginning Jazz Piano Parts 1 and 2 are billed as a new jazz method for players who already have some piano experience and a basic technique, and claim to offer “an introduction to swing, blues, latin and funk”.

Let’s find out whether these handsome publications live up to the sky-high standards of Richards’ previous work…

Continue reading Tim Richards: Beginning Jazz Piano

FREE! James Welburn: Cool Cat Blues

FREE SHEET MUSIC DOWNLOAD
Courtesy of EDITIONS MUSICA FERRUM


James Welburn has produced two collections of original music for Musica Ferrum which I have previously reviewed: Reflections in Waltz and Musical Escapades, both highly enjoyable.

Cool Cat Blues comes from his hotly anticipated and soon to be released third collection Adventures & Accolades.

I will review the collection once it’s available, but in the meantime here’s a preview of Cool Cat Blues, an astutely observed jazz piece for the intermediate player; those looking for fresh material that will get their toes tapping are in for a treat!


And here’s your free promotional copy of the sheet music to this piece, courtesy of Editions Musica Ferrum:


Further details of the book, including the option of purchasing a digital copy or studio license, are available from the publisher here.


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June Armstrong: Take Ten

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


June Armstrong is not only one of the UK’s most creative composers, but one of the most prolific. Having only reviewed her Dreams and Dragons last December, she’s already now back with her next publication, Take Ten.

Capitalising on the immense popularity of her piece Dusty Blue, recently a Grade 2 favourite here, Armstrong’s new book delivers 14 brand new ‘Jazz Miniatures for piano solo, suitable for elementary players.


With so many competing publications in this territory, and the prevalence of jazzy pastiche, it’s inevitable that Take Ten is a less musically distinctive collection than some Armstrong publications.

But I have no doubt that it will be a best-seller, and deservedly so, because it’s excellent and has some cool twists…

So read on for my detailed review…

Continue reading June Armstrong: Take Ten

Nikki Iles and Friends

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Nikki Iles will be known to many readers for her Jazz on a Winter’s Night book and subsequent series for OUP, and her recent Tales for Alice and Tales for Peter Pan collections for EVC Music, all of which I have been hugely impressed by.

Over the years, Iles has also contributed to the ABRSM Jazz Piano Syllabus and composed several memorable pieces for the board’s standard piano grades, which are always popular choices. And now she’s back with two new books of jazz pieces for ABRSM, between them bringing 29 new piano solos to the intermediate and advanced repertoire, composed and arranged by Iles and a stellar array of luminaries of the contemporary jazz world.

With the drawing power of Iles and friends, and the marketing clout of ABRSM, these two books are sure to fly off the shelves, so let’s take a closer look while we can!

Continue reading Nikki Iles and Friends

Jazz Piano for Kids

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES • review by ANDREW EALES
Supporting Your Teaching • PATHWAYS FOR TEACHING


While there’s a growing number of good published resources for the keen jazz student these days, most are aimed at the serious adult player, and in many cases too-quickly get embroiled in complicated jazz theory. Meanwhile, for young players who enjoy “jazzy pieces” and want to explore the style, there’s long been a gap in the market.

Jazz Piano for Kids, new from ace jazz educator Richard Michael and published by Hal Leonard, aims to fill that gap. Introducing his book, Michael writes,

“Welcome to Jazz Piano for Kids and your very first steps in making up your own solos. What do you need? Apart from a piano or keyboard, just two hands, two wide-open ears, and the ability to have a go without fear of making mistakes. This beginner’s course will give you the building blocks of playing jazz on the piano… Before you know it, you will be improvising your own solos and starting a lifetime’s discovery in the wonderful world of jazz.”

Let’s get started right away…

Continue reading Jazz Piano for Kids

Sam Wedgwood’s ‘Next Level’

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Sam is the latest member of the Wedgwood clan to be making a big name for himself as a composer of well-crafted and catchy piano pieces suitable for intermediate students.

Following the popularity of the two Sam Wedgwood’s Project books from EVC Music, the publisher’s latest release is his new collection of solo and duet pieces, Next Level.

Here’s the Pianodao review…

Continue reading Sam Wedgwood’s ‘Next Level’

Bob Chilcott: A Little Jazz Piano

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Bob Chilcott will be known to many readers for his lifelong association with choral music, first as a chorister and choral scholar in the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, and for 12 years as a member of the King’s Singers.

Chilcott became a full-time composer in 1997, and has produced a large catalogue of music for all types of choirs which is published by Oxford University Press. His most often performed pieces include A Little Jazz MassRequiem, and Can you hear me?

In common with John Rutter, whose Piano Collection and Christmas Piano Album I have recently reviewed, Chilcott has lately turned his hand to creating a collection of piano pieces.

Nattily titled A Little Jazz Piano in reference to his popular Mass, this newly published collection from OUP contains three short pieces suitable for intermediate players. Let’s take a little look…

Continue reading Bob Chilcott: A Little Jazz Piano

Brad Mehldau: Suite, April 2020

RECORDINGS OF THE MONTH
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Brad Mehldau is not simply one of the true greats of jazz piano, but one of the most interesting composers, collaborators and creators in the contemporary music scene.

Every release of his is special, and this year we are fortunate to have two in close succession, the brilliant quartet album Round Again with Joshua Redman, Christian McBride and Brian Blade and, the subject of this review, Suite: April 2020, an intimate solo set comprising twelve pieces improvised in response to the lockdown of March/April 2020, plus three concluding bonus cover versions.

Suite: April 2020 appeared digitally almost immediately back in the late spring, and the physical CD album arrived this Autumn:


Continue reading Brad Mehldau: Suite, April 2020

Piano Tales for Peter Pan

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


In the few years that I have been reviewing music publications on Pianodao, there have been a few standout releases which have gone on to become real favourites with my own students.

An obvious winner in this sense is the brilliant Piano Tales for Alice, composed by Nikki Iles and published by EVC Music, which I reviewed here in 2018.

Hot off the press, the much anticipated sequel Piano Tales for Peter Pan is out now, and for those who have been keen for its arrival I have good news:

Nikki Iles has done it again! Piano Tales for Peter Pan delivers another equally delicious mix of wit, imagination, and jazz-tinged brilliance. So let’s take a look…

Continue reading Piano Tales for Peter Pan

The Faber Music Jazz Anthology

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Over the last three years, Faber Music seemed to establish a pattern of releasing deluxe Piano Anthologies in the run up to the Christmas season. For 2020, they have ‘upped the ante’ by bringing forward the next title in this stunning series to the Spring, with further anthologies (Contemporary and Easy) already in preparation.

The Faber Music Jazz Piano Anthology builds on the quality of its predecessors to deliver a sumptuous and brilliantly conceived book of jazz standards, newly arranged as piano solos for more advanced students and adult piano enthusiasts everywhere.

Definitely time for a closer look…

Continue reading The Faber Music Jazz Anthology

Hiromi: Spectrum

RECORDINGS OF THE MONTH
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


New releases are usually a bit thin on the ground in January and this has proved true again in 2020, the respite providing the perfect chance to revisit the best albums of the last year.

2019 was a solid year for new jazz piano releases, many of which I have enjoyed repeatedly. Highlights have included Keith Jarrett’s superb Munich 2016 recording, Ahmad Jamal’s gorgeous Ballades, Abdullah Ibrahim’s Dream Time and Chick Corea’s double live trio CD Trilogy 2.

My personal favourite of the many good recent jazz albums has to be Hiromi Uehara’s Spectrum, however. Following a succession of brilliant trio, ensemble and collaboration albums, Spectrum is Hiromi’s first solo piano studio album for a decade, and is a remarkable musical tour de force.

Speaking to The Japan Times, Hiromi said of the recording,

“As a pianist, making a solo album is really like, kind of being naked. There is nowhere to hide. There is no other instrument to play with in order to cover the sound. It’s really challenging, but at the same time, it’s the best way to fully enjoy this instrument…
It’s like having a conversation with myself. I can be really free, if there is nobody there to restrain me. I can go anywhere that I want in improvisation.”

Let’s find out where Hiromi’s playing led her …

Continue reading Hiromi: Spectrum

The Melody at Night, With You

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Keith Jarrett has long been one of my piano heroes, his album The Melody at Night, With You an all-time favourite recording. I am absolutely delighted that, 20 years after its release, Schott Music have brought out a complete sheet music transcription of the ten album tracks, by Friedrich Grossnick.

I’ll get straight to it – this music is a very special recommendation. Let me tell you why…

Continue reading The Melody at Night, With You

Julia Hülsmann: Modern Piano Improvisation

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Here’s an interesting concept!

“Is it possible to learn to improvise? The acclaimed jazz pianist Julia Hülsmann answers this question with a resounding ‘yes’. In volume 1 of her Modern Piano Improvisation series she presents an easy and inviting introduction to this skill.
Songs are the main focus of her approach: easy arrangements of 15 jazz classics and original compositions by the internationally-renowned composer Hülsmann. Ideas and themes are given for each piece to help you to create attractive piano solos.
Demo recordings and play-along backings are available as MP3 files to download.”

So reads the blurb on the rear cover of an attractive new publication from advance music, brought to us by Schott Music.

Adding excitement to the mix, author Julia Hülsmann is indeed one of the most distinguished pianists of the contemporary European jazz scene, with a string of albums on the ECM and ACT labels, including the award-winning Scattering Poems.

So let’s take a look…

Continue reading Julia Hülsmann: Modern Piano Improvisation

Exploring the Piano Music of Nikolai Kapustin

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Kapustin’s extensive catalogue of solo piano music is increasingly recognised as one of the significant landmarks of the contemporary recital repertoire.

In an earlier review Discovering the Piano Music of Nikolai Kapustin I had a look at two contrasting works, the fiendishly difficult Sonata No.6 Op.62 (1991), and the more accessible (and now highly popular) Sonatina Op.100 (2000), new editions of which Schott Music had recently released.

Since then, Schott have been continuing to refresh the Kapustin catalogue (theirs since 2013) with new editions of his solo works appearing at regular intervals.

In this follow-up I will be giving a quick round-up of all the latest arrivals. Of these it must be noted that even the least assuming pieces here are rightly classified as virtuoso, being at least Diploma level in difficulty.

In all cases, these works are fully scored-out compositions in the classical vein, but heavily imbued with the language, techniques and aesthetics of contemporary jazz, leaning on influences that encompass modern jazz piano icons from Thelonious Monk to McCoy Tyner and beyond.

Continue reading Exploring the Piano Music of Nikolai Kapustin

Blues in Two and more…

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Mike Cornick has long been respected as one of the pioneers of catchy, jazz-based music which is as ideal for adults playing the piano for relaxed enjoyment as it is for educational use.

In this review I will look at his two latest publications, starting with the recently published intermediate collection Blues in Two and more…

Continue reading Blues in Two and more…

Rockschool Piano 2019

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES • review by ANDREW EALES
Supporting Your Teaching • PATHWAYS FOR TEACHING


“From a small office in West London in 1991, RSL (Rockschool Ltd) had a dream to change the landscape of formal music education, and sought to become the first viable alternative to the traditional offerings available in Britain at the time.”

So says Rockschool founder Norton York. And from these small beginnings, Rockschool has grown into a major international examining board, offering grade exams, teaching and performing diploma qualifications, vocational qualifications and performing arts awards in 9 different disciplines, and in more than 40 countries.

Rockschool recently launched their new 2019 Piano syllabus, which you can download in full from their website here, as well as publishing nine music books, one for each of the usual 8 Grades as well as “Debut”, their pre-Grade 1 offering. The music books are brought to us by industry leading Hal Leonard publishing, ensuring worldwide availability.

Note that the syllabus document does not actually list the pieces. For that reason, I will list them below as I believe readers will be particularly interested in this information.

Looking at the books, I think there are two potential markets here:

  1. Firstly, some will be interested in following this syllabus for the core learning structure it provides those specifically wanting to play rock and pop piano styles.
  2. Secondly, I suspect many players will be interested in dipping into these resources alongside more traditional music and methods for the breadth and perspective they bring.

For this review, my main focus will be on the published resources. I will include a concise syllabus overview, but a more in-depth consideration of the pedagogic pathway it offers and its benchmarking against traditional alternatives is beyond the scope of this article.

To be clear, too, I have never entered a student for the Rockschool exams; the assessments are fully accredited, but pianists and colleagues I’ve chatted with have given mixed feedback.

And I should also preface the review by pointing out that the Rockschool exams should not be confused with Trinity College London’s Rock and Pop syllabus, which I have reviewed here.

So let’s take a closer look at the Rockschool 2019 Piano syllabus…

Continue reading Rockschool Piano 2019

Keith Jarrett: La Fenice

RECORDINGS OF THE MONTH
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


“So, who’s your favourite pianist, then?”

It’s a question most of us run from. But over the years I have become comfortable naming Keith Jarrett as, if not “favourite”, then certainly one of the most extraordinary pianists alive.

So when a new album of his live improvised music is released, it jumps straight to the top of the pile, and likely becomes a very easy choice for “Recording of the Month”.

Happily for me (and for you) La Fenice is not simply an album of live outtakes from the vault, but another very special Jarrett release which demonstrate just why he is such an extraordinary and acclaimed musician. 

La Fenice

Recorded live in concert on a single evening, La Fenice exemplifies everything that those in-the-know have come to treasure in Jarrett’s music. So let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading Keith Jarrett: La Fenice

Tord Gustavsen Trio: “The Other Side”

Photo credit: Hans Fredrik Asbjørnsen

RECORDINGS OF THE MONTH
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Just as the great classical composers would often use the medium of the string quartet to explore new compositional ideas, techniques and directions, so jazz pianists have often produced their most exploratory work in the trio format.

One of the noteworthy recent exponents of the jazz trio is Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen. His Trio, featuring drummer Jarle Vespestad and bassist Harald Johnsen, toured between 2003-08, releasing three recordings, Changing Places (2003), The Ground (2005), Being There (2007), all on the ECM Records label.

Changing Places wasn’t, as it happens, my first encounter with Gustavsen’s playing; he had previously recorded sessions with fellow Norwegian chanteuse, Silje Nergaard, one of my absolute favourite singers. Gustavsen’s understated but deeply felt piano lines in her early recordings certainly made their impression on me, but hearing him let loose in a trio format really bought home the delicate brilliance and originality of his playing.

Following on from the three trio albums, which established Gustavsen’s voice as the preeminent lyrical pianist of the Nordic school, with colourful tinges of blues and gospel never far from the surface in his playing, he developed larger ensembles. The Tord Gustavsen Quartet added saxophonist Tore Brunborg, while the Ensemble added the vocals of Kristin Ambjørnsen.

Along the way, Gustavsen added experimentation with electronic instruments and treatments to his already gorgeous sonic palette. And for his 2016 release What Was Said (my personal favourite, by the way) he was joined by German-Afgan jazz singer Simin Tander alongside regular drummer Jarle Vespestad.

The Other Side marks Gustavsen’s return to the basic format of the standard Trio after more than a decade of exploring these other musical possibilities. As I listened to preview track The Tunnel over the late summer, I wondered whether this new album would be somewhat a return to Gustavsen’s roots, or be markedly different from the earlier Trio albums ….

Continue reading Tord Gustavsen Trio: “The Other Side”

How to Play Jazz Piano

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES • review by ANDREW EALES
Supporting Your Teaching • PATHWAYS FOR TEACHING


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 …

Continue reading How to Play Jazz Piano

Tim Richards’ Jazz, Latin & Modern Collection

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


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 …

Continue reading Tim Richards’ Jazz, Latin & Modern Collection

Big Phat Jazz Piano Solos

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


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…

Continue reading Big Phat Jazz Piano Solos