As well as being a very much sought-after teacher with a regular post at the Birmingham Conservatoire, Liam has found time to work on two very interesting a challenging books which are of great interest to piano scholars
Jazz Piano: An In-Depth Look at the Styles of the Masters, by Liam Noble. Hal Leonard Corporation (7777 W. Bluemound Rd., PO. Box ]3819, Milwaukee W153213), 2004. 103 pp. $17.95. Advanced.
The styles of fifteen jazz pianists are discussed in this fascinating volume. While some hipsters may debate the omission of James P. Johnson and Art Tatum (if the intent was to cover the most "influential" jazz pianists), no one would doubt the significance of those included: Basle, Brubeck, Ellington, Evans, Hancock, Hines, Jamal, Monk, Morton, Peterson, Powell, Shearing, Silver, Tristano and Tyner.
Biographical sketches precede detailed analyses of each musician. The most distinctive feature, however, is surely Liam Noble's fifteen original compositions in the styles of these pianists. Evans's lyricism, Monk's quirkiness, Peterson's virtuosity, as well as Shearing's "locked chords" and Tyner's quartal sonorities, are captured faithfully and inventively. This approach allows Noble to encapsulate various traits that might not appear conveniently in one piece by the chosen interpreter. For instance, the composition illustrating Jelly Roll Morton's style combines elements from his solo piano excursions (such as his 1938 recording of "Maple Leaf Rag") and New Orleans ensemble pieces (like "Dead Man Blues"), bouncing between Morton's characteristic "Spanish Tinge" and a Johnson-esque stride.
The criticism of reducing a multifaceted genius (like Ellington or Brubeck) to one tune (where are the former's sophistication and wit or the latter's polychords?) must surely be countered by the compendious nature of this ambitious undertaking. How else could such a broad topic be covered in one course? Indeed, the present volume could serve as the textbook for a one-semester course on jazz piano.
An accompanying CD provides the opportunity for students to play along. The volume would have benefited from some kind of preface stating the intent and uses of this book (not for beginning students, whose time might be spent more wisely studying actual transcriptions of these artists), as well as a statement that these are original compositions by Noble.
John Salmon, Greensboro, North Carolina.
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