I've played jazz piano for 10 years, more or less, as a self-taught pianist (although I have significant classical training). I've performed with my own groups, and written and arranged music for them. On the basis of other reviews, I ordered this book, hoping it would advance my technique and improvisational skills. I was disappointed.
This particular book would be great for a piano teacher with late beginner or early intermediate students who want to learn the very basics of jazz improv. To that end, most of the exercises are in the keys of C, F, Bb, G, and Eb. However, there's nothing here to challenge or help anyone beyond that level--there are lots of other books on the market that would do the job better. Also, there's no theory here, beyond the very basics of the blues progressions and ii-V-I progressions.
While the book is helpful for its intended audience, it's not for anyone who's advanced his/her playing beyond the most basic level.
My money wasn't wasted; I can use it with my students. But it won't help my playing. Too bad, too; I was hoping for something better from one of the jazz greats, who had the biggest technique of any jazz pianist I ever heard.
If you have this book, or if you intend on buying it, here are a couple of suggestions that may enhance its value:
1. Almost everything here is linear; in other words, there are few chords to work with, and no chord symbols anywhere. This is sad; in the words of the immortal Mel Bay, "if you don't know your chords, you'll never play well enough to be dangerous." So, do this: Figure out the chords that Oscar uses as the basis of a particular exercise, etude, or piece. Then, decide if he uses the root, third, fifth, or even seventh of the chord as the bass. Next, determine what tones in the basic chord have been altered: flat fifth, augmented fifth, major seventh, flat ninth, sharped ninth, or even the extensions, 11ths and 13ths. Then write the chord on the score. Not only will you learn the chords better, you'll see how they interrelate one with another as the piece flows from one chord to another.
2. Transpose all the of pieces to each of the 12 major keys (or minor keys if the piece is in minor mode). True, most jazz is written in a few standard keys, C, Bb, F, G, D, Eb. But "Body and Soul" and "Lush Life" are in Db, "'Round Midnight" is in Eb minor, "All the Things You Are" takes you all the way around the circle of fifths, as does "The Duke," by Dave Brubeck. Anything Billy Strayhorn wrote has ultra-challenging chord progressions ("Lush Life," "Chelsea Bridge," "Bloodcount"); guitar-oriented jazz groups often play in E and A because those keys are easier for guitarists. Much of the more recent jazz is either atonal (in that it floats from key to key without landing on any particular tonal center), or is written in one of the more obscure keys. In any event, you need fluency in all 12 keys--there's a reason why Bach wrote "The Well Tempered Clavier" the way he did! You'll get more bang for the buck if you take time to transpose the pieces, then perform the chordal analysis I suggested in #1.
I intend on using the book in this way with my own students. That way, what seems at first glance pretty simplistic will at least give them and me more value down the road.
In general, I was disappointed by this one. Books by Bill CunliffeJazz Inventions for Keyboard and Mark LevineThe Jazz Piano Book and The Jazz Theory Book already do a lot of what I suggested, and are more comprehensive to boot. They are better values for your dollar. If you're really adventurous, try these two by Jimmy Amadie, Harmonic Foundation for Jazz and Popular Music, and Jazz Improv: How to Play It and Teach It; there's a lot of info packed into a small space with those two books. However, they are a bit pricey.
But stay away from this one unless you're a beginner or you teach beginners. Then do the drills I suggest to make it worth your time and money.
Rest in peace, Oscar. We miss you!