Review: Jazz Piano Book The By Mark Levine
This is a must have book for jazz pianists because it covers just about every jazz piano building block there is. This is one of the top jazz piano books out there. It almost doesn’t matter what level you’re at because it’s easy to find something to explore and work on. This book helped my personal playing grow when I first played through it.
Endorsed by Kenny Barron, Jamey Aebersold, Richie Beirach, and more, this book presents all the information a student of jazz piano needs in an easy-to-understand, yet thorough, manner. For intermediate to advanced pianists, written by one of the acknowledged masters of jazz piano playing.
Full Book Review and Other Notes:
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Volume 2 has 14 jazz piano exercises and tricks of the trade, and quite a bit of it is Calypso jazz piano related material, including some Monty Alexander and Michel Camilo style grooves. Jazz piano education is through the ears, but books like this can help.
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Volume 3 contains 12 jazz piano exercises and explorations by the acclaimed jazz piano educator, pianist, author, and recording artist Tim Richards.
Tim wrote the well known “Exploring Jazz Piano” and “Improvising Blues Piano” books and has several others to his name.
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Limits Of The Jazz Piano Book
I have already pointed out what in my opinion is the biggest limitation: the almost total absence of functional harmony. If you don’t already know the concept of tonality, secondary dominants, major and minor cadence, it will be useless to know hundreds of voicings, because you won’t know which ones to use at the right moment. In summary, here are the major limitations of this work.
- It’s not a book for beginners, you need to have some knowledge of jazz piano to follow and understand it.
- It doesn’t have a functional approach to harmony, in fact it often mixes modal and tonal approaches, which is a bit confusing
- It does not approach jazz piano from a chronological or stylistic point of view
- Some parts are a bit dispersive and can confuse and discourage a beginner pianist
- Topics are not addressed in progressive order of difficulty.
Jazz Piano Book By Mark Levine Review And Study Guide
The Jazz piano book covers many topics, but does not always do so in an orderly fashion. Especially for those who have not already done advanced jazz piano studies, it can be difficult to navigate through the many notions. This review is therefore intended to be a study guide for Mark Levine’s Jazz piano book.
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Who Can Study Mark Levine’s Jazz Piano Book
The Jazz Piano Book is not for beginners. If you know nothing about harmony and jazz piano, this book is not for you. If you have done classical piano studies, the topics you should know before tackling this book are:
- Seventh chords of all types, in all keys
- The circle of fifths
You should also have at least an initial knowledge of superior harmony, i.e. 9th, 11th, 13th chords , because the Jazz Piano Book offers many voicings but does not explain how 9th, 11th, 13th chords originate or even when they can be used. The lack of a part dedicated to functional harmony is perhaps the greatest limitation of this book.
Review Ofthe Jazz Theory Bookby Mark Levine
Sher Music Co. , 1995. $35. 522 pp. Spiral-bound.
From JPSL No. 11.
In most respects,
One benefit of Levine’s real-world credentials is that the material is based on the actual practice of present-day mainstream players he eschews any mere book-learning that’s not directly applicable to what people do on the bandstand. At the same time, his analysis is intellectually rigorous and does not gloss over difficulties.
Though perhaps a touch expensive at $35, this is a big book. The layout does have a great deal of white space, which seems to be a new convention for instructional books. There are an enormous number of musical examples, including, as a nice bonus, a number of complete charts for some great hard-to-find tunes. Since these aren’t listed in the table of contents, I’ll give them here for your reference: Wingspan , 163 Black Narcissus , 216 Spring Is Here , 372 Body and Soul , 377 I Hear A Rhapsody , 385 My Little Brown Book , 397 Beatrice , 398 What’s New? , 412.
There are extensive discussions of “rhythm” changes, Coltrane changes, “slash chords” , and all the familiar concepts of reharmonization like tritone substitution all these are discussed mainly in terms of chord progressions alone, without reference to melodic lines or piano voicings but those topics are not theory, strictly speaking.
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The Merits Of The Jazz Piano Book
The greatest merit of Mark Levine’s Jazz Piano Book is the great variety of topics covered. The main strengths lie in the voicing section, but it also provides important insights into improvisation. In summary, here are the main pros of this manual:
- It covers a large number of topics
- It is very detailed, especially in the voicing part.
- It offers many written examples
- It suggests numerous exercises to learn the various techniques
- It recommends exercises for learning more than one technique at the same time