Six preludes for solo piano using vocabulary from both the classical and the jazz traditions. Prelude XIII (G flat) focuses on a lovely right hand melody that sits on top a constantly shifting set of rich and increasingly chromatic harmonies. The first improvised section suggests Debussy colors, while the second improvisation calls for a more traditional harmonic relationship, giving the pianist ample opportunities to discover intriguing roads to travel. Prelude XV (B) is a hauntingly beautiful waltz that cries out for tenderness and sensitivity in both the written and improvised sections. As with so much of Dobbins writing, the prominence of singing melodies over complex yet appealing sonorities allows the pianist to access a wide tonal range at the keyboard. Prelude XVII (E) is a brilliantly conceived study for the left hand alone.
Again dipping into his rich harmonic "bag of tricks", Dobbins provides the pianist broad stokes with which to paint. Prelude XVIII (C sharp minor) is a rhythmic tour de force, a modern jazz etude that demands a strong drive, steel fingers, and a quick touch. As in the previous two sets of Preludes, Dobbins has given the modern pianist a veritable new world to explore and to bring to modern audiences. He is challenging each kind of pianist (the non-improvising classical and the jazz pianist who may not perform written scores as a rule) to introduce themselves to the others way of communication. And in doing so, he is providing a fascinating, pianistic, and unique set of pieces, and possibilities for personal expression that become ever more personal each performance.
The modern classical pianist has such a rich, deep, and varied history of repertoire to choose from: from the pristine clarity of Mozart to the unabashed romanticism of Liszt; from the liquid meanderings of Debussy to the rhythmic drive of Prokofieff. Yet we still tend to program the same "war-horses" over and over again; audiences tend to hear the familiar and their imaginations remain unchallenged, their souls untouched by new ideas. A possible solution is to program repertoire that is both innovative yet immediately accessible in purpose and effect. A successful new set of pieces, written for piano, has come along, and pianists and audiences will react in utter amazement.
Rarely do the intent and execution of fresh ideas meld into an offering of such breadth of emotion and style as in Bill Dobbins Preludes. In these masterpieces of form and sound, Bill has combined the seemingly impossible-a vehicle for the classical pianist to explore a fresh harmonic and rhythmic palette of colors, and for the jazz pianist to investigate an array of ever-changing ideas within a pre-existing "classical" format. In these gems, Dobbins has provided means of expression for both the classical and the jazz pianist-not only can we can live respectfully side by side, but we can borrow from each other, learning and nurturing along the way. Tony Caramia, Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY