Here’s a short presentation (minus the Q&A) from a talk I gave to a webinar at the Education University of Hong Kong on July 22, 2020. This draws on a larger history of Play-A-Long media as technologies for learning jazz improvisation that will likely end up published in the next year or two.
I make the case that the Play-A-Long allowed a new kind of mediated practicing ideally suited to a practical approach to jazz theory, and that Miles Davis’s “So What” was a particularly important catalyst for jazz pedagogy. What’s new is the attention to the connections between Aebersold and others, and the explication of what I refer to as the “soloist as such”—a generic model of the beginning improvisor that allowed a standardized notion of learning improvisation to emerge. While there are drawbacks to Play-A-Long materials, the extraordinary achievement of helping jazz to enter formal learning deserves appreciation.