This publication is the companion volume to Tim Richards’s recent Blues, Boogie and Gospel Collection, and it’s a new collection of contemporary repertoire for solo piano from the successful UK pianist, composer, and educator. The press release tells me that the 15 pieces include new arrangements of standards by Monk, Ellington and Parker. However, there isn’t actually a new arrangement of a Parker tune in the book, so we get an additional Richards original instead, which isn’t a problem as he’s a fine composer.
These pieces, which ascend in difficulty from approximately intermediate to advanced as the book progresses, are all composed by Richards, with the exception of his arrangements of “Well, You Needn’t” and “Come Sunday”. Overall, they’re a little reminiscent in both style and layout of those in the graded piano books of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) jazz-piano syllabus (both offering the student the opportunity to play notated piano scores and improvise around given repeated chord sequences), although each of Richards’ pieces comes with more accompanying information for the student, which can only be helpful.
The book is accompanied by downloadable audio files of Richards playing all 15 pieces on a Yamaha C3 Grand Piano, rather than the usual accompanying CD which readers will have been accustomed to with his previous publications. Readers can also benefit from watching the “Exploring Jazz Piano” video clips available on his YouTube channel. There are informative sections towards the back of the book on, e.g., chord symbols, chord voicings, scales, modes and pentatonics, used earlier in the book within the pieces.
Within the pieces themselves, the improvised solos which Richards plays on the recordings are all notated, but the notation is also accompanied by brief notes and specific terminology, made at regular intervals during the solos, which help to explain what note choices Richards has made. This encourages the student to attempt their own improvised solos, rather than just play the notated ones, and this is something that other books at this level don’t always do.
There’s a nice variety of styles amongst these pieces, using different time signatures, and both swing and straight 8s (different jazz ways of playing quavers, for those not versed in American jazz terminology).
This is definitely a book to consider for the aspiring pianist who’s looking for more jazz-orientated sheet music to play, at that tricky intermediate to advanced level. That level hasn’t generally been so well catered for historically as the earlier stages.
Jazz, Latin and Modern Collection
15 pieces for solo piano by Tim Richards. Schott, pb, 76pp, £14.99. ISMN M-2201-3789-1