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Jazz Hands for Piano Book 2

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The Jazz Hands series

Jazz Hands is a series of original jazz pieces for piano by Mark Tanner, which covers all standards from grade one through to red hot.

The title of this series, 'Jazz Hands', derives from the
familiar exuberant gesturing seen in music theatre - fingers
spread and extended, with palms facing upwards, an effect
frequently amplified by a convulsive shivering of the hands.
Cheerleaders have tended to make widespread use of jazz
hands, while the concept has also found its way into revues,
Broadway shows and films, as well as contemporary dance.
In the current context I am of course referring to the jazz
pianist's hands, which in only the most ambitiously spaced
Art Tatum chord would require the player to stretch the
digits to such an extent as in the aforementioned theatrical
The term 'jazz' has been adopted and adapted in a
multiplicity of ways (not unlike 'classical', indeed), so that
it no longer tells us very much about the music itself.
Aficionados immediately recognise the better-known
subgenres, such as 'bebop' or 'New Orleans' styles, and may
even be able to distinguish 'smooth' from 'groove', or 'fusion/
crossover' from 'Postmodern'. And yet these are just labels,
not music. In an understandable bid to define all that we
hear using such terminology, we may inadvertently place a
straightjacket around the music itself, and hence close the
door to the possibility of encountering new, innovative jazz
styles. Furthermore, the inescapably hefty contribution
made by jazz forms to the music of Stravinsky, Debussy,
Ravel and Kapustin, to spotlight just a few, clouds the
picture irretrievably.
Thankfully, nonetheless there are 'givens' aplenty in
jazz - 'syncopations', 'back-beats', 'stabs', 'licks' and 'riffs'.
In conjunction with these, we cannot fail to notice the
presence of 'colour-notes' within the harmonies, alongside
the ubiquitous use of jazz modes, typically the blues
and diminished scales. The trouble is, that the task of
setting down jazz in manuscript turns out to be somewhat
troublesome - every bit as hard as when notating 'straight'
styles. After all, good jazz playing, just like good Mozart
playing, comes down to 'feel', not mere note regurgitation.
While the character and impact of jazz music frequently
depends upon a tempo which really 'sits' comfortably, it is its
rhythmic lifeblood which resists the conventions of notation
most stubbornly.
This explains, for example, why jazz composers often find
themselves torn between writing dotted rhythms in 4/4 or
crotchet/quaver patterns in 12/8. In truth, neither of these is
the ideal solution, which is why the simple 'swing' marking,
applied to pairs of plain quavers, is probably as good as
any method. In practice, such couplets often appear 'semi-dotted', to achieve a wantonly lazy effect, assisted by a subtle
emphasis on the second, rather than the first of each pair.
Another conundrum for jazz composers is to do with the
'spelling' of the fruitier chords (i.e whether to mix 'n match
sharps and flats, or endeavour to be more systematically
'correct'), not to mention the difficulties in pointing out
which note in any given chord is the most important, given
its fleeting context within a piece. Ultimately, compromises
need to be made, so a certain amount of reading between
the lines becomes inevitable. Take grace notes, for example,
a fairly indispensable expressive device for any jazz player.
It may be that, initially at least, these seem to get in the
way of crisp, rhythmic playing, but I would encourage the
player to thread these in at the outset and allocate the most
appropriate fingerings, rather than attempt to bolt them on
at some later stage. This way, they will more likely appear
natural and spontaneous. In both this and other matters
the performer needs to be patient in fathoming what the
composer was after, and should aim at all costs to avoid a
prosaic, literal presentation. Ultimately, the music will only
come to life when both composer and performer see eye to
Most jazz pianists know their 'standards' – 'My Funny
Valentine' etc. These familiar melodies and chord
structures provide the basic canvas upon which embryonic
improvisation can begin. But these are hard-won skills, not
garnered overnight, so at first it may well be advisable to
learn set pieces which are 'jazzy', as opposed to 'pure jazz'.
Many of the pieces in the first few books of this series aim to
do just that, but before long you should find it hard to resist
adding your own ideas to keep things fresh and interesting.
That said, there are no direct expectations to improvise in
these books – everything has been written out for you.
There are limits to notation, however – take a look at some
of the more elaborate transcriptions of Oscar Peterson's
improvisations and you'll quickly wish you'd never bothered!
Indeed, some of the pieces in these books may at first appear
a little harder to pull off than their classical equivalents for
the grades in question, and yet I have always maintained
that it is the quality of the playing which governs how
compelling the music emerges, not the level of complexity
apparent from the page. For this reason, even a classically-
trained grade 8 pianist may have to work hard to render a
grade 3 jazz piece with the confidence and élan it invites.
Mark Tanner


  • 01. Twill by Twilight
  • 02. Cat Flap
  • 03. Lament for Typhoon Haiyan
  • 04. Loch Jedmon
  • 05. The Swashbuckler
  • 06. Slow Burn
  • 07. Déjà Vu
  • 08. Zen and the Art of Cabbage Cultivation
  • 09. Three Men in a Boat
  • 10. Contemplation
  • 11. Unexpected Turbulence
Cat No. SP1232
Price £7.95
ComposerMark Tanner
CategoryPiano Solo
PublisherSpartan Press
SeriesJazz Hands
Difficulty level4 - 5
ISMN 979-0-57998-232-6
EAN-13 9790579982326
Weight 122 grams
Published 22nd February 2016
Availability 12 in stock