Elena Cobb is a piano teacher and composer in the UK (but originally from Russia) who writes music in various popular musical styles, including blues, Latin, and jazz. She has music books available intended for both young students and intermediate to advanced students. You can read more about Elena’s teaching approach and goals behind her pedagogical music here.
Elena asked me to review a couple of her books, which you can read about below!
Higgledy Piggledy Jazz
(Books 1-3 available, with CD)
Cost: 7.95 pounds (about $13 USD), plus shipping.
Elena sent me a copy of Higgledy Piggledy Jazz Book 1 to review, which contains 10 pieces. The included CD allows students to play along with a live jazz band recording! The pieces are recorded in multiple forms: in slow and fast tempos; and also versions with and without the piano part included with the jazz band recording. I love the CD, because it is much more fun than a metronome. :)
There are five pieces that are in key of C major, which feature colored notation: F Major harmonies appear in green ink and the G major harmonies in red. The colored notation is intended to help speed up learning and increase the student’s ability to recognize the chords they are playing. These pieces are based on the twelve bar blues. The music is attractive and appealing to hear and play.
In the score, Elena includes fingering, counting (1-2-3-4), and lyrics (for some of the pieces; intended to help students absorb the rhythms). Guitar chords are also placed below the staves, and phrases are outlined above the stave with small square brackets. For a few of the pieces, the staff notation is rather small for my personal taste — but most of the pieces look clean and clear.
This book contains some lovely, full-page color illustrations, which were created by Elena’s sister, Nathalie Chabelnik-Wood. The book itself is a stable-bound booklet, with a nice sturdy cover. The paper inside looks and feels nice, too.
These pieces are great fun for students interested in jazz or blues styles of music! According to the cover, Book 1 is intended for students playing at Grade 1, 2, or 3 (ABRSM leveling). As is frequently the case with pop styles, this music features syncopated rhythms. For a few of the more difficult pieces, the student will need the hand-size and coordination required to play 4-note seventh chords.
This book provides a great way to incorporate jazz and other music styles into the student’s curriculum, as well as a way to potentially collaborate with other musicians! Students who have friends who play guitar, saxophone, or other instruments may be able to have them play along by reading the chord symbols or improvising.
You can listen to the CD tracks of the piano part accompanied by the jazz band by clicking here.
The Blue River book is intended for intermediate to advanced students. It is 23 pages long, and contains 5 pieces.
The music is blues, Latin, and jazz inspired. The pianist playing these pieces will encounter large chords, syncopated rhythms, fast tempos, and octave playing.
The score features a nice, clean layout. Reading from these pages is a pleasure! The book itself is a stable-bound booklet, with a nice sturdy cover. The paper inside looks and feels nice, too.
Students will enjoy both the lively and calm selections included in this collection. I like playing these pieces myself, too!
Here’s a video of me playing the selection “Star Dust,” my favorite piece from this collection:
You can listen to recordings of the rest of the selections here.
Disclosure: I was sent free copies of the two books mentioned above, but was not required to write a positive review. As always, my reviews contain my honest opinions!
Update: Check out my review of Elena’s new piano method book, called My Piano Trip to London.