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The History of Play-A-Long (and More)

50 years after Jamey Aebersold launched his revolutionary series of books and LPs, technology has blown the options for interactive music education wide open

Jamey Aebersold
Jamey Aebersold, creator of the Play-A-Long series, which now runs to 133 volumes (photo: courtesy of Jamey Aebersold Jazz)

Thinking back to his early days as a curious young musician, Eddie Palmieri remembers hours of close listening to records. The Cuban bands of the ’50s held a particular fascination for the percussionist-turned-pianist; he’d dissect every detail of the music to learn how the various parts worked together and, ideally, how to play with them. There were, of course, limits to what could be gleaned from listening to a large ensemble on a 78. This was well before Jamey Aebersold launched his seminal Play-A-Long series, after all, and the genres central to Palmieri’s sound had nary a foothold in music education programs, DIY or otherwise.

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