January 1, 2005

The Play-A-Long Series/St.Louis Blue
Jamey Aebersold
If they ever decide to give the Nobel Peace Prize to a music teacher, it'd be hard to find a more worthy recipient than Jamey Aebersold. Over the past three-plus decades, the tireless jazz pianist and educator has personally helped legions of musicians worldwide become better improvisers and accompanists, thus making life easier on all of our ears. Think of the millions of wrong notes this man has prevented! His monumental humanitarian feat is the result of his timeless Play-A-Long series of book/ CD instructional packages (which, yes, originally came with vinyl records). And with the release of St. Louis Blues, Aebersold celebrates a true milestone: His 100th volume.

In case you've never used a Play-A-Long disc, simply pop one into your stereo and, like magic, an all-star rhythm section appears in your living room jamming on standards. And the best part is that they leave all the heads and solos to you-a sweet deal when your backup band includes such hotshots as Ron Carter, Rufus Reid, or John Patitucci on bass, Billy Hart or Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums, and Mark Levine or Aebersold himself on piano (to name-drop just a few of the jazz notables who appeared on past Play-A-Long offerings). And don't worry, each Play-A-Long booklet is packed with all the notated melodies, chord charts, scale forms, and improvising tips you'll need to tackle the tunes. (There is, however, no tablature, so get out your reading glasses.) From basic blues workouts to ball-breaking bebop boot camps, Wes Montgomery celebrations to Miles Davis retrospectives, II-V-I studies to odd meter torture tests, hard bop seminars to Latin jazz crash courses, there are Play-A-Long titles in every skill level. So, whether you're taking baby steps or Giant Steps (Vol. 68, by the way), Mr. Aebersold's got you covered. Jamey Aebersold Jazz.

-Jude Gold  

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