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Monday, June 6, 2011

New Resource for Jazz Piano Students

I've been very fortunate to have been able to work with a lot of very smart and talented people throughout my career. One of them is Chicago area pianist Frank Caruso, who has just released a new book, Piano Improvisation: A Powerful Practical System. Along with his co-author Karl Mollison, Frank has crafted a very interesting new method that uses both art and science to address the needs of students who are relatively new to jazz and perhaps to the piano as well.

The book emphasizes four basic ingredients that the authors consider to be essential for developing one's potential:

1. A system of practical chord voicings and scale fingerings in all 12 keys, to be ingrained at both a conscious (intellectual) level and in the student's muscle memory.

2. Enough music theory to provide an understanding of pop and jazz harmony without complicating matters with unnecessary jargon.

3. Tips and tricks used by professional level musicians to quickly analyze new material and apply your theoretical knowledge to construct effective solos.

4. A solid technical foundation that will allow you to "find your sound".

As many jazz methods do, Frank begins with the basic blues. He provides practical fingerings for both scale patterns (in this case the blues scale) and functional left hand chord voicings.  Here's a sample page from early in the book:

 Then there are numerous written out solos on the 12 bar blues, two of which are reproduced below:

As a non-pianist, I'm at a little bit of a disadvantage in terms of comparing Piano Improvisation to other methods, but it does seem like Caruso and Mollison make a convincing case. The book is certainly very thorough, and presents a lot of material in all 12 keys - and you know I like that!

There's a lot of information and more sample pages available at their website, which is the only outlet for purchasing as well.

Pianists and piano instructors, leave a comment here and let the rest of us know what you think.