The basement tells the story.
Decades of excellence fill bookshelves and walls. Photos hang in every corner of the room as employees hurry along, filling orders and answering calls.
But Jamey Aebersold is never very far from what has made him an internationally known jazz musician and instructor. Sitting nearby are a piano, drum set and his beloved saxophone.
Aebersold has been playing sweet music and supplying the world with how-to-play books and recordings through his business, Jamey Aebersold Jazz, which opened 42 years ago. He has published 126 play-along books.
“There is not a second that goes by that a person is not practicing with a Jamey Aebersold play-along record,” Aebersold said.
His group consists of Steve Allee on piano — who is also the musical director for the morning radio program “The Bob & Tom Show” — Tyrone Wheeler on bass, and Louisville’s Jonathan Higgins on drums.
The group will play popular jazz standards by Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Jerome Kern and other writers from the Great American Songbook.
Once the stalwart of a golden era, jazz has become more of a forgotten sound. The Jazz Factory in Louisville and the Speakeasy in New Albany have both closed in recent years.
But Aebersold and his group still play at The Seelbach Hilton in Louisville and at numerous functions in the area. He regularly performs in schools, where he not only provides music, but educates the students on the harms of smoking.
Aebersold, who recently turned 70, said he still enjoys playing for people who like jazz.
“I’ve used the same guys for years,” he said of his group. “I enjoy playing if people enjoy hearing it.”
Aebersold recently hosted his annual Summer Jazz Workshop at the University of Louisville. The day started at 8:30 a.m. and ended with student jam sessions at 10:30 p.m. There were almost 100 instructors at the camp, who taught everything from jazz theory to vocals.
“It’s a big undertaking. We expect certain standards,” he said of his U of L camp. “Some people like to experiment with jazz, but they don’t think they have it. It’s like anything, you have got to keep at it. After 50 years, it gets easier.”
Aebersold — who recently added the prestigious Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award from the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia in Orlando to his collection of honors — holds his own jam sessions in his basement one or two times a week to keep in playing shape and to play new tunes.
He said jazz is all about improvising and playing “what pops into your head.”
As for the future, Aebersold said he will continue running his business, playing jazz and teaching students about the ills of smoking.
“I’m doing what I like to do,” he said. “I have the energy. I don’t smoke or drink. If I’m average, I will be dead in seven years. But I hope I have my dad’s genes. He lived until he was 92. So I still plan on playing in the future ... I hope.”
-Adapted from an article by Chris Morris, Dated July 30, 2009 in The Floyd County News and Tribune
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