After landing in Louisville, and settling in at the downtown Louisville Marriott, the first thing on the agenda of some Touroids was getting out of Louisville. Getting out of the whole damned state of Kentucky, in fact, and heading across a big bridge into the next-door state of Indiana, and the charming little town of New Albany. The lure was a performance by a jazz musician born and raised and still living in New Albany. His name is Jamey Aebersold, and he is legendary in the jazz world, and beyond, as a great performer, writer and educator. An official NEA Jazz Master, in fact, and those are not in abundance.
Mr. Aebersold was playing with a snappy quartet in a refurbished old building, the River City Winery, in a sprused-up old downtown. There was quite a crowd in the room when the first Uberload of Muzoids arrived, and even more so when a second car dumped its load of Hollywood Horns (without their horns, sadly).
Upon arrival, each Touroid was issued a copy of the Jazz Handbook, published by Jamey Aebersold Jazz, chock full of practice suggestions, tips and tricks, and the secrets of improvisation.
A quote: “Everyone has the ability to improvise from the youngest child to the senior citizen. You have to have desire and set aside time to work at it until moving your fingers becomes automatic and the distance between your mind and fingers grows smaller and smaller to where you think an idea and your fingers are already playing it. It’s not magic. If it is, then magi equals hard work and perseverance. When asked, ‘What is the greatest obstacle to enlightenment?’ the Buddha replied, ‘Laziness.’ I agree!”
Part of Jamey’s successful business model is his jazz play along CD/music packages, which are used all over the world for training by amateurs and professionals alike.
One of the things I specifically wanted to ask him was the correct pronunciation of the name of another jazz legend, Lee Konitz, with whom I played a gig in Louisville 50 years ago, so I could drop his name in a pathetic attempt to enhance my paltry jazz cred.
Jamey gave me the correct pronunciation (KOE-nitz), and also told me that Mr. Konitz, now age 90, uses his playalong disks to practice scat singing.
Before his group's downbeat, Jamey walked into the audience, and gave each visiting Touroid a 25-cent piece. Yes, a quarter. Not, as you might think, so they could call someone who cared. Instead, he said, “Look at these closely.” And those who did, and whose Codger Vision was working acceptably, could read the inscription of the name Duke Ellington on the back of the coin. A genuine Duke coin.
As I said, the Hollywood Horns arrived disarmed, so intimidated were they by Jamey's credentials, and there was to be no jamming for them, despite our urging. But both our keyboard dudes, who feared no jam, sat in for a tune each, and acquitted themselves without embarrassment on an unfamiliar instrument. “Acquitted” is the appropriate word, too, because the Muzoids were joined by my nephew, Mike Hensley, who had driven to New Albany from Madison, Indiana, where he is a judge, holding the same seat once occupied by his father, the late “Honest” Joe Hensley, who was the talented one in my family, with 21 novels published as well as 100 short stories,. My grand total, on the other hand, is—let’s see...exactly, uh, none. Unless you count thirty years of this PBI crap. But that’s another story, or perhaps dozens of them. Further deponent sayeth naught.
After the jazz gig shut down (a little after nine), several Muzoids were driven back to the hotel by Judge Mike. On a street corner on the way to his car, they stopped to look at a music store. It was closed, obviously, or Richard Bennett would have been inside guitar shopping, but outside was a weatherbeaten upright piano, and I stopped to play a few bars for the invisible crowd on the street.
The evening was wrapped up nicely by Judge Mike's action-packed drive through the Louisville street grid’s closings, impending destruction and random one-way direction changes. Eventually, we arrived at the hotel, which is why you’re reading this.
Footnote 2019: A few days after our lovely evening in New Albany, Jamey Aebersold emailed me that he had just been informed by the management of the River City Winery that his group’s services would no longer be required. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why the music business sucks, as does one no-longer-hip establishment in Southern Indiana where being a certified NEA Jazz Legend is insufficient credentials for a gig. If you were planning to go there to hear one, never mind. Jazz Appreciation Month is officially over.