Author: Belland, Diana Duffin
Date published: April 1, 2012
Jungle Beat; and Monster Jam, by Kristen Allred. Neil A. Kjos Music Company, 2011. www.kjos.com; 24 pp. each, $6.50 each. Late-elementary.
Monster Jam ana Jungle Beat, two volumes of late-elementary piano music, are part of the Kjos Center Stage Solo Series. In these captivating pieces, Kristen Allred couples a sound pedagogical approach with charming musical inventiveness to create a kaleidoscope of wistfully lyrical mood pieces, energetic etudes and funky blues.
Simple forms, either a blues progression or a three-part design, are used, while melodies and patterns in fivefinger positions with occasional extensions are featured. Patterns are frequently repeated in octave shifts up and down the keyboard, enhancing student mastery. Easy minor keys prevail, while accidentals, occasional dissonances and triad shifts up or down a half step are effectively employed to add splashes of color. Editing is clear and precise with fingering and pedaling skillfully marked.
Monster Jam, perfect for a Halloween recital, includes pieces marked "Clumsily" and "In funky monster style" that conjure up amusing images of ungainly creatures dancing. In "Waltz," repeated minor seconds punctuate the flow of the graceful tune, suggesting that one partner keeps stepping on the other's foot! With its frequent meter and tempo changes, "March of the Zombies" suggests the stumbling gait of the "undead." "Dracula Gettiti Down" doubles as a technical study with its emphasis on right-hand wrist rotation while "Dance of the Yeti" and "Frankenstein's Boogie," both featuring sharply accented syncopations, offer well crafted rhythmical challenges. With its rippling arpeggios alternating between D minor and ?-flat minor, "Swamp Creature," vividly evokes the swirling murkiness of a swamp. As the piece reaches a fortissimo climax on an F major arpeggio, we glimpse the slithering "swamp creature" raising its head from the watery depths before melting from sight as the piece ends in a descending diminuendo of D minor arpeggios.
On a slightly more advanced technical level, Jungle Beat includes two show pieces: "Racing Cheetah," with a pattern of intervals rapidly alternating between the hands, and "Bird of Paradise Dance," a brilliant tarentella. In contrast, "Mists of Kilimanjaro" and "Kalahari Sunrise" focus on singing tone with expressive right hand melodies. Allred's jazz background is revealed in "Monkey Mischief," "Jungle Drums" and "Prowling Panther" with her deft handing of blues patterns and syncopated figures. Both collections, Monster Jam and Jungle Beat, will serve as rewarding supplementary recital material, providing hours of enjoyment for teacher and student alike.
Reviewed by Diana Duffin Belland, Northern Kentucky University