Are They Real or Fake?

jazz fakebook

If you have been a musician for a little bit of time, and certainly if you’ve been one for a long time, you have probably come across a fake book of some kind.  These are usually huge volumes of tunes, be it jazz standards, pop hits, blues songs, broadway classics, or any number of genres.  Many musicians, especially gigging musicians, will often invest in one or more of these tomes to increase their personal database of tunes.

But what is a Fake Book, and where did they come from?  The first question is easiest to answer with a picture (You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words).


Anyone Can Improvise! DVD


As I strip away the cellophane covering, the first thing I notice is Jamey’s fabulous hair! It’s so dark and full… Anyway…  In all seriousness, I open the case and there is a small booklet in the front cover.  It says, “Note: This DVD contains much information!” No kidding… it goes on to say on the front,

“Don’t feel like you have to grasp and understand everything in the first viewing.  Take your time in digesting the various concepts and ideas.  You may want to view it in sections.  If there are things you don’t understand please feel free to contact me.” – Jamey Aebersold

For those of you who were un-aware, if you do the practice exercises in the FQ Red Handbook and mail them to Jamey, he will actually grade them and send it back to you.  Jamey’s mailing info can be found on  This little booklet is just an abridged version of the Nomenclature, Jamey’s talk on jazz as the “Natural Music,” Practice Methods for beginning scales and chords, and an introduction to the scale syllabus.

Finally, I actually start the DVD.


That Sure is Bright! Mighty Bright!

You’re out at a show.  You’ve got your music in front of you.  You are ready to go.  The lights go down.  It’s at this point that you realize you cannot see your music anymore.

Maybe this has happened to you, but it has definitely happened to me.  Now, to every gig I go to and play, I bring my Mighty Bright Music Stand Light.  Being the boyscout that I am, our motto, “Be Prepared” has always had a place in my heart and mind.  Whether the area is well lit or not, I am ready.


A Pocket Guide to Jazz Improvisation


“Jazz Improvisation: A Pocket Guide” is a compact, 3″x 5″ book by Dan Haerle designed to be a convenient resource for the gigging musician.  As Dan Haerle says in his introduction:

This book is intended to be put into a pocket, backpack, or instrument case and carried around with you for quick reference anytime it is needed.  There are many ways to use the book for daily practice and study, or as a quick reference.  You do not need to go through it in any particular order.  Untill all of the information you need as a player is learned, it’s all readily available in this book.  Use the book as a dictionary to look up some scale or chord that you are less familiar with.  Use the appendixes for daily practice since it is easy to have the book with you anywhere you may be.  Good luck as you strive to be a better player!

For me, it provided just that.

Little Shop Of “to my Horror”

These past two weekends, I have been part of the band in a local high school’s production of “Little Shop Of Horrors.”  I had stopped by the high school to pick up my score when they finally got them in, a few days before the first show.  So, I took home the handwritten score and rehearsed the tunes for the show.  Having previously done a few musical theatre gigs, I knew the music would be tricky at best.

I get to the school, and I’m told “oh, that’s the wrong score.  The right ones came in today.  They’re in a little bit different keys, the ones the kids have been practicing with.” Well, that’s just swell.  But, it’ll be fine, just different keys… Right?  Wrong.  To my horror (pun slightly intended), it was totally different.  Luckily, this one wasn’t hand written, and was far easier to read.  But still, different.

This score had far more, and far more complex chords.  Now, being the novice jazz player that I am, I don’t use extensively altered chords all that often.  This musical, of course, had all the altered chords you could think of.  Why? Because it’s musical theatre, that’s why.  Anyway, I was fortunate enough to have this little book in my bag.  While the children on stage were yelling into their headsets to see how much they could make them feed back, I was hurriedly looking up chords and was making notes in my score.  Close one…

But Wait, There’s More!

Chords, chord voicing, and chord progressions are only a small part of this petite paperback.  It also features functions of different scales, the II-V-I progression, guide tone paths as well as major, minor, blues, and bebop scales.


Here above you have the blues scale in all 12 keys, major and minor.


Bebop scale in “C.”


6th and 7th chord variations, and suggestions on how to use them.

On The Road Again

Travelling Musicians

For those of you who are either gigging or traveling musicians, or just someone who doesn’t like to clutter their shelves with lots of books, “Jazz Improvisation: A Pocket Guide” is an ideal book to own.  You can use to look up concepts you are less familiar with, as I did before the musical.  You can use it practice scales, runs, and licks that you want to brush up on, and even create practice routines on the go.  Let’s face it, we all have things we need to work on, but who wants to drag their music theory book around with them to every gig?

giant textbook

You know, just in case…

So go ahead and do yourself a favor, and pick up a copy of “Jazz Improvisation.”  You’re lower back will notice a difference, for sure.  Aebersold Jazz also offers a whole series of “Pocket” books. For whatever else you need, there might be a pocket book for it?


The Office

Jamey at Indiana University Southeast!


Jamey Aebersold came to Indiana University Southeast to treat the music students and faculty to a miniature clinic over the lunchtime hour.  This event was free, and open to  the whole campus.  For my part, I told everyone I knew on campus that they should come. And they did.  Both of them.  Even though the turnout was low, I thought it was fantastic.  Jamey came out and said, “This reminds me of a joke.  A friend asked me, ‘why did you go into jazz?’ and I replied, ‘well, it wasn’t for the crowds!’ The people who were there laughed.

The reason I mention the turnout is to encourage everyone to come out and experience one of Jamey’s clinics next time that you get a chance.  They are musical, historical, and certainly entertaining!

As a reader, who may not have ever seen or been to one of Jamey’s clinics or shows, you might be wondering what was so great about this particular hour long concert? It’s just jazz right? On the contrary, it’s much more than that, and I’d like to tell you about it.

The Introduction


After Jamey introduces his band, Steve Crews on Piano, Butch Neild on Bass, and Jonathan Higgins on Drums, (Obviously, Jamey Aebersold on Saxophone), he has them start a blues in C.  He gets out his microphone and starts to put up slides on his overhead projector.  This slides range from pictures of famous jazz players, (he would then talk about that player), musical maxims or tidbits of wisdom, (such as “Music Can Be A Friend For Your Whole Life”) or musical examples, (actual written music).

Jamey talks about what they are doing, playing a repeating blues pattern, and explains what you need to improvise, and how natural it is.  To show us this, he starts scatting.

“I don’t know why we’re not all singers!” he declares.  My face becomes rather dubious at this point, but that’s a long story. He explains how the free flowing, improvised scat singing comes from the right side of his brain, the creative side.  “But when I pick up my horn, the left side kicks in because I have to start thinking about fingerings and the like”. He has a lovely slide for that, too.

Brain Slide

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but it goes into great detail about how each side of your brain contributes to music making.  Immediately after saying this, he jumps up, grabs his saxophone, and goes into an improvised solo with his group.

Next Jamey introduces a tune that he wrote called “Smooth As Silk,” and the band plays the tune.  Each member takes a solo, and Jamey encourages everyone to clap at the end of each solo.  For those of you who don’t know, IUS is much more of a classical school than a jazz school.  Most students are used to waiting until the end of a piece, not even clapping between movements.  It’s pretty intense for classical kids to clap that much.

More Tunes

Jamey and his friends play us a few more tunes, varying in style, speed, one he started by himself, and one he played with just Steve (The piano player).  At one point during “Autumn Leaves” Jamey goes back over to his overhead projector and puts up the lead sheet.  He points out each chord in the song as they play along so we can visually see where they are in relation to the lead sheet.

He tells us a few more stories from his earlier days in the jazz world.  I would try to repeat them, but I feel I would rob them of their humor and intimacy in Jamey’s storytelling.

The Final Plug

Finally, where would we be without a whole-hearted crusade against smoking from Jamey Aebersold? He gives a short speech about how many jazz musicians tragically died young from substance abuse, be it smoking, drugs, or alcohol.

Kicking up one last tune, Jamey invites anyone who has further questions to stay afterward and talk to Jamey or the band members.

Next Time!

If you ever get the chance to go see Jamey play, or attend a clinic or class, I highly encourage you to do so.  It is fun, it is entertaining, it is instructive, it is good music, and a great time.