Tucked away on a New Albany street named after his family. Jazz master Jamey Aebersold has been playing music for most of his life. I caught up with him in his studio which is covered with some 15 thousand vinyl albums, thousands of photos which he calls the Smithsonian Jazz Institute of the Midwest. He talks to me about how he was introduced to jazz. He says “Jazz is the coming thing. When I was young, I got my driver’s license at 16. I got me a 35 dollar car. I drove to Louisville, in westend where jazz was playing. Every club had jazz. Rock-n-roll had not been invented yet. Country western wasn’t popular so jazz was basically everywhere. I would go to those places and listen to them. I would wonder what was going on in their minds.
He never liked to stick to the traditional format. Aebersold says “My dad like Dixieland music. I bought some records. Yeah, I liked it but then when I heard Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, I kinda went that way.” As he hand gestured.
He goes on to say “It was years later, I would realize that was the foundation that I needed those scales and cords and the fingering of it, so forth…because that would allow me to play what I heard in my head. (as he hummed a tune) then add a cord to it. That’s how I got started.”
Jamey told me that he was not a good student and the teacher actually returned his money because he just didn’t have the patience to play the standard scales and cords. In his mind, he was just copying what he saw in the music book. He wanted to play what was in his head which we know today as improvisation. When he got older he did receive his formal training and we talked about it. He said, “I went to Indiana University and they didn’t have saxophone but they put me on the woodwind degree. So, I had to take lessons in oboe the flute, the basson, clarinet, and I don’t think I took saxophone lessons from anyone but the second year a guy was getting his graduate degree and they let him give me lessons. I played the first jazz recital at Indiana University which was a big deal back then 1960/61.” He talked about the audience giving his a standing ovation for that performance.
Aebersold was very humble, knowledgeable, and full wisdom that we could of literally stayed with him all day and still would not of been able to cover everything he’s accomplished. He Performing in the all over the world and receiving so many accolades along the way. From receiving the National Endowment for the Arts which is the highest honor given to jazz musicians in the U.S. to receiving the Indiana Governor’s Arts Award by Mitch Daniels. He had a table full of awards, even a letter from the White House from President Barack Obama.
I wanted to know if he thought jazz was a lost art. He responded quickly by saying “No, no, no. I tell you why. When people play jazz they use their imagination. They are very creative and its coming from here to the fingers and that’s not going to stop.”
He says anyone can improvise. He says, “Too many don’t even try because they feel like they are not good enough”.
I wanted to know what would be his legacy. He says there’s to much to do now to worry about the future. There’s still so much to do now. He gave some good advice that he hopes more people would apply to their life and that was to be nice to people.
To learn more about Jamey Aebersold and his Jazz Play-A-Longs, go to jazzbooks.com. you may even see him a classroom if you attend Bellarmine, I-U, or U of L.
To see the television version of the story. Click the link provided: https://www.whas11.com/article/news/community/moments-that-matter/jamey-aebersold-new-albany-jazz-muscian-beallarmine-uofl-indiana-university-teacher-music/417-c14b168b-979e-430c-b9e6-198f5d81fe57