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Jazz Slang

AAJ Staff By

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Cut. To leave or depart. Also to completely outdo another person or group in a battle of the bands.
Hey, man, did you see the way that two-bit band "cut" when Basie "cut" them last night.

Dad, Daddy-o. A hipster's way of addressing another guy.
Hey, "daddy-o," what's cookin.'

Dark. Angry or upset (used in the Midwest).
Joe was in a real "dark" mood after Jaco showed up 30 minutes late for the gig.

Dig. To know or understand completely.
Hey, dad, I been listenin' to what you been doin' and I "dig" that crazy music.

DeeJay, Disk Jockey. An announcer of records on radio.
Man, he is one crazy "deejay". He spins some cool disks.

Down by law. is to have paid dues; that is, to have earned respect for your talent or ability to "get down."
Charlie Parker spent years on the road working a lot of dives to fine-tune his craft. He earned every bit of success and recognition he later received. He was "down by law."

Drag. As a verb—to depress or bring down a person's spirits or, as a noun—a person or thing which depresses.
Let's get outta here, that guy is a real "drag."

The End. Superlative that is used interchangeably with "too much" or "crazy."
The way Benny blows the clarinet is "the end."

Finger Zinger. Someone who plays very fast.
Ignasio the new guitarist is a finger zinger on the guitar. Damn, that boy is incredible!

Flip. A verb meaning to go crazy or a noun meaning an eccentric.
That dude is really cooking, I think he's going to "flip."

Flip your lid. Same as "Blow your top."
That cat looks crazy. I think he's gonna "flip his lid."

Fly. Smooth or slick.
Hey, Eddie, did you see the hat-check girl Bernice? Man, she is "fly.."

Fracture. To inspire or move someone.
You are the funniest guy I know. When you start to tell a joke, it "fractures" me.

Freak Lip. A pair of kissers that wear like leather; one who can hit high C's all night and play a concert the next day.
Ol' Satchmo, ...now he had a pair of "freak lips!"

Funky. Earthy or down-to-earth.
That George Clinton is one "funky" cat.

Gas. As a noun—something that moves you. As a verb—to stir up feelings.
The way that guy beats the skins is a real "gas."

Gate. Early term for a Jazz musician.
Armstrong is the original Swing Jazz player that's why they call used to call him "Gate."

Get Down. To play or dance superlatively with abandon.
Jaco can really "get down" on the 4-string.

Gig. A paying job.
I'm playing a gig in the city tonight.

Gone. Yet another Jazz superlative.
Lester is a real "gone" cat.

Goof. Fail to carry out a responsibility or wander in attention.
Hey, Leroy, stop "goofin'" when I'm talkin' to ya.

Got your glasses on. you are ritzy or snooty, you fail to recognize your friends, you are up-stage.


Groovy. Used in the fifties to denote music that swings or is funky. For a short while in the sixties, groovy was synonymous with cool. The word has been used little since the seventies.
Hey, Jack, dig that "groovy" beat.

Gutbucket. Gutbucket refers to something to store liquor in and to the type of music associated with heavy drinking. An early term for lowdown or earthy music.
That cat Satchmo started out playing some real "gutbucket" in the houses down in New Orleans.

Hand me that skin (later modified to Hand me some skin) ---A big expression for "shake, pal."
Hey, whaddya say Rufus, "hand me some skin."

Head or Head Arrangement. An arrangement of a song that is not written, but remembered by the band members (the tune and progression to improvise on).
Man, Basie's band uses a lot of "heads," not those written arrangements. That's why his band really cooks.

Heat. Solo space.
Yo, man, I want some "heat" on 'Giant Steps'!

Hep. A term once used to describe someone who knows or understands. Replaced by "hip" about the same time that cool replaced hot. Some sources believe that "Hep" was the surname of a Chicago gangster of the 1890's.
Dipper Mouth Armstrong is a "hep" cat.

Hide hitter—drummer.
The hide hitter didn't show, so we had to make it a duo.

Hip. A term used to describe someone who knows or understands. Originally "hep" until the 40's or 50's.
Yardbird Parker is really "hip."

Hipster. A follower of the various genres of bop jazz in the 50's. These were the precursors of hippies in the 60's.
Those "hipsters" that hang out at Shelly's Manne-Hole are really diggin' the West Coast sound.

Horn. Any instrument (not necessarily a brass or reed instrument).
That dude can sure blow his "horn.."

Hot. A term once used to describe "real" jazz. Replaced as a superlative by "cool" in the late 40's or early 50's.
Satchel Mouth Armstrong played some really "hot" jazz in the 20's.

A Hot Plate. A hot recording.
Boys, I think we got ourselves a "hot plate."

I'm Booted. I'm hip or I understand.
It's cool, man, I know just what you mean, "I'm booted."

In the Mix. Put it together, make it happen.
Put that cat "in the mix," we need a drummer for our upcoming tour.

In the Pocket. Refers to the rhythm section being really together as in...
Those guys are really in the pocket, tonight.

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