Though I'm a big advocate of learning from recordings, it does not hurt to have resources at your disposal to help you understand what you are hearing. The books below are ones I think will do the most good for aspiring and pro players alike.
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LearnJazzPiano.com 2001-2002 Forum Compilation
This is a 600 page compilation of nearly all the forum posts from the years 2001 and 2002. This compilation is a wealth of jazz piano and related information containing everything from topics on practicing, theory, scales, chords, and dicsussion on nearly every jazz topic you can think of. This material has been organized into sections based on content and is contained in a bookmarked PDF file.
"I recommend everyone get a copy...it's very nicely done."
Metaphors For The Musician
"Metaphors For The Musician" gives insights into almost every aspect of jazz musicianship, including scale/chord theory, practice strategies, composing techniques, performance psychology and how to create the states of mind that produce the best improvisations. Included are chord voicings, comping, and exercieses. This book is designed for any level of player.
Note: Randy Halberstadt is one of the FEW pianists that the legendary Jerome Gray actually things is good.
Mark Levine, long-time pianist with Cal Tjader, is a Concord Jazz recording artist who has recorded with such jazz greats as Joe Henderson, Camen McRae, Richie Cole, Mark Murphy, Houston Pearson, and many others.
The Jazz Theory Book
If the Jazz Piano book above isn't enough for you, the Jazz Theory book (by Mark Levine) includes even more. It's about as inclusive as you can get.
Written in the language of the working jazz musician, this book is easy to read and user-friendly. At the same time, it is the most comprehensive study of jazz harmony and theory ever published.
"The Jazz Theory Book" takes the student from the most basic techniques such as chord construction and the II-V-I progression through scale theory, the blues, "I've Got Rhythm" changes, slash chords, the bebop and pentatonic scales, how to read a lead sheet and memorize tunes and a study of reharmonization that is almost a book in itself. Satisfaction guaranteed or money will be refunded.
There's not much to say about books from John Mehegan. They are well written, have tons of information, and if you are looking for "must have" books in your theory library, you will be happy with any of his books.
Mehegan Jazz: Vol. 1 Tonal and Rhythmic Principles
The fundamentals of jazz are here explained and systemized in 70 lessons based on 60 jazz standards. It covers the styles of musicians from Buddy Bolden to Dizzy Gillespie. Preface by Leonard Bernstein.
Funk Keyboards - The Complete Method
If you want to expand your jazz playing into the realm of Herbie Hancock, Chic Corea, David Benoit... this book could be what you are looking for.
Note: This book is for beginning-early intermediate players.
"Explore the chords, rhythms, and techniques used by the greatest funk keyboardists! Subjects covered include: common chords and progressions; classic funk rhythms, licks and patterns; synth bass & multiple keyboard playing; and pitch wheel and modulation. The accompanying CD includes 81 full-band tracks."
Oscar Peterson- Note-for-Note Transcriptions of Classic Recordings
For those of you who want to have some SWEET licks to play in blues and such, you can not get better than Oscar Peterson.
"This fabulous book/CD pack features transcriptions of 18 piano solos by the legendary Oscar Peterson, taken directly from the original recordings. The solos are divided into two groups: eight Oscar Peterson Classic Originals (Chicago Blues · Hymn to Freedom · Nightingale · Night Time · and more) and ten selections in Oscar Peterson Plays the Blues (Blues Etude · Greasy Blues · Oscar's Boogie · R.B. Blues · Ron's Blues · and more). Includes an intro by the editor complete with performance notes, a welcome letter from Oscar Peterson, and great photos, with Oscar's captions, throughout. The CD contains performances of each transcription played by gifted jazz pianist Miles Black."
Monty Alexander Plays Standards
Another great jazz piano player with the kinds of sounds we are all looking for.
"Jamaican-born Monty Alexander has been blending bop, hard bop, and his own Caribbean background into a unique blend of jazz piano for over 50 years. This songbook spotlights 8 of his tracks transcribed note-for-note for solo piano: Body and Soul · Caravan · I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart · It Might as Well Be Spring · My One and Only Love · Small Fry · Where Is Love? · You Call It Madness (But I Call It Love). Also includes a biography and discography for this great jazz artist."
The Monty Alexander Collection
This one has Monty's original pieces. Some great calypso and funky/jazz licks are to be had in this book!
"Includes piano tran-scriptions of eight tunes from legendary bop/ hard bop pianist Monty Alexander: Happy Lypso · Jamento · Look Up · Reggae-Later · Renewal · The River · Think Twice · You Can See."
Dick Hyman KNOWS how to make things sound hip. The following two books contain his reharmonizations of a lot of great standards. If you're stuck and need to inspiration, these two books will give it to you (that is if you can't get it from recordings!)
Do not learn tunes using fake books. Why? Then you'll think that's how they go. A fake book is a roadmap that gives you the basic direction of a tune. Learn tunes by listening to recordings instead! That way you can hear what the piano player did. "Hey, that wasn't a Gm to a C7, he did all sorts of stuff in there!"
The following Sher Music fake books are legal and the chords, arrangements, lyrics, and annotations are correct. If you need a reference library of tunes, these books are a great place to start.
The Latin Real Book (C Version)
This Sher Music fake book contains some great latin arrangements and songs (ever wanted to see how Manteca went?).
The Ultimate Jazz Fake Book
This book has SAVED my rear end on many occasions when vocalists are looking for particular tunes or when I can't find a tune in any other book. Worth having on your shelf.
The World's Greatest Fake Book
I don't see this book around too much anymore, but there are some really nice tunes (Birdland, for example) in it that are not in any other fake book out there. I've had a copy for over 15 years and have never regretted it.
If can't find the book you need or have any comments, leave a public or private message to me. I'll get back to you personally usually within a day or two.
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Has anyone gotten that Randy Halberstadt book? First time I've heard of it, and it looks pretty good. Is it worth it?...
Volume 1 of this educational jazz piano book contains 15 jazz piano exercises, tricks, and other interesting jazz piano techniques, voicings, grooves, and ideas Scot Ranney enjoys playing.
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.
Volume 3 contains 12 jazz piano exercises and explorations by the acclaimed jazz piano educator, pianist, author, and recording artist Tim Richards.
Volume 4 is by Jeff Brent, a jazz pianist, composer, teacher, and author of "Modalogy" and other acclaimed jazz theory and education books. In this book Jeff shares detailed analysis of transcriptions of live performances. He covers everything from the shape of the songs to the tricks and licks he uses in improvised lines to the ideas behind his lush chord voicings.
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