The traditional-foot tapping jazz, not the finger-snapping kind. Dixieland, Ragtime and New Orleans’ style. That’s the type of jazz Bob Ashman ’59 wants to hear, and it’s what he wants to share.
After graduation and a stint in the Army, Ashman worked for Procter & Gamble for 36 years. Part of his time was spent in
New Orleans, where Ashman would hear plenty of jazz, but it wasn’t where he fell in love with it.
“In the mid-’50s, I lived on Alberta Street across from the Fieldhouse,” Ashman said. “There was a bar downtown, and a bunch of us would go down there every time Carl Halen’s Gin Bottle Seven played.” Included in the bunch of friends was Ashman’s future wife, Connie Masten ’57.
The close-knit community of Flyers isn’t so different from what Ashman experienced when he started the Cape May Traditional Jazz Society nine years ago in New Jersey.
“I don’t play, and I thought the most difficult part about starting the society would be finding musicians. It was the easiest,” Ashman said. “They’re like a band of brothers.”
When word got out that Ashman was booking traditional jazz bands once a month, they reached out to him. Like the crowds that come to hear the music, the players do it for the love of the music.
“Sometimes we lose a few bucks. When we make money, we donate it to a local food bank,” Ashman said.
Like so many Flyers, Ashman is in it for the love, and he’s willing to give back to the community. It doesn’t come without effort.
“If you want something to happen, you’ve got to get off your ass and do it. We’re a small group,” said Ashman describing the Cape May Traditional Jazz Society Board. “We’re all retired, and we handle everything from booking the bands to setting up the chairs.”
The payment? Traditional jazz, and that’s music to his ears.