Awarded the prestigious Music Industries Association Award in 2006 for Best Pop Publication, Tim Richards' Exploring Jazz Piano was the long-awaited follow-up to his acclaimed Improvising Blues Piano, also published by Schott. The overall level is somewhat higher, and would suit pianists of Grade 4 standard and above. The book comes in two volumes, comprising no less than 56 original pieces by the author, together with special arrangements of 24 standards ranging from Autumn Leaves and Summertime to Straight No Chaser and Coltrane's Impressions.
The two volumes also contain over 800 musical examples, a veritable treasury of styles and techniques for the aspiring jazz pianist, and refers to the work of Erroll Garner, Art Tatum, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Horace Silver, Hampton Hawes, Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Bill Evans, George Shearing, Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, and many others.
Each volume has its own CD, containing between them performances of all 80 pieces, played by Tim alone or with his current trio of Dominic Howles (bass) and Matt Home (drums). Play-along tracks are also included, in which the piano is panned to one speaker, providing rhythm section accompaniment if desired by turning the amplifier's balance control. Copious examples of improvisation are accompanied by numerous assignments, with guidance to hand on every page.
The package is beautifully illustrated with many full-page photographs of piano masters past and present, informative mini biographies and a comprehensive suggested listening section. The practical covered spiral binding protects the books as well as enabling them to lie flat on the music stand.
Exploring Jazz Piano fills a vacuum in jazz piano instruction, its comprehensive syllabus taking the reader from first principles in Vol. 1 to professional level in Vol. 2. Any student of jazz piano, piano teacher, or performing musician dipping into either volume will be rewarded with a wealth of ideas and practical information to keep them occupied for many months, or to use as an ongoing resource in the years to come.
Vol. 2 deals with more complex and colourful harmony, from suspended fourth, sharp eleven and thirteenth chords to diminished and altered scales. Advanced voicing, accompaniment and improvisation techniques are examined in detail, including the following topics:
Quartal harmony, modal improvisation, long and short II - V patterns, altered dominant chords, polychords, stride piano, Bossa Nova clave and Partido Alto, Lydian and Locrian modes, how to make scales swing, building bebop lines, R235 patterns, the b3 pentatonic scale, Rhythm changes, turnarounds, minor II - V - I, playing in 3/4 time, playing in double-time, tension and release, transcribing, practice routines.
32 pieces by the author appear alongside special arrangements of well-known jazz standards, including Beautiful Love, Blue Bossa, Blue in Green, Caravan, Impressions, Ladybird, Misty, On Green Dolphin Street, Softly as in a Morning Sunrise, Summertime, Tune Up and Yesterdays. Also included are transcribed solos by Oscar Peterson, Wynton Kelly and Hampton Hawes.
EXPLORING JAZZ PIANO - press reviews
"There's little that comes close in terms of practicality of approach."
Brian Priestley - JAZZWISE magazine
"The jazz process has been uncovered in the most comprehensive and welcoming way. Clear-cut, informative and easy to use, Tim Richards has given all comers to this music a way in - go and buy it."
"One of the most detailed studies of modern jazz piano I have come across... a very strong foundation [for a keen student] to build their own style and ideas."
Huw White (3rd year student on Royal Academy jazz course) - JAZZ UK
"Meticulously researched, well-structured and stimulating... a tremendous teaching resource... demands to be in the library of every Music Department that teaches jazz."
Hugh Johns - TIMES EDUCATIONAL SUPPLEMENT
"Exploring Jazz Piano provides the aspiring new-to-jazz or grade 4-level pianist (and above) with an exciting, comprehensive step into the world of jazz - highly recommended."
Alec Boulton - MUSIC TEACHER magazine
"I cannot praise it too highly... Vol. 1 and 2 together rank among the best instructional books that I have seen in the 21 years since Jazzwise started."
Charles Alexander, JAZZWISE
"Richards' approach is methodical, thorough and progressive. No shortage of useful information, much of it illuminated by the two well-played and well-produced CDs that accompany the books. Years of fruitful and fascinating study to be had, and plenty of good advice."
Mark Gilbert, JAZZ REVIEW