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Jazz Slang

AAJ Staff By

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Jack. Jazz man's term for another person. Often used in a negative manner.
Please don't dominate the rap, "Jack." Hit the road, "Jack."

Jake. Okay.
Even though nobody seems to like him, that guy is "jake" with me.

Jam. To improvise.
The band is "jammin'" inside right now.

Jam Session. A group of jazz players improvising.
You might want go downstairs, Duke's boys are having a "jam session."

Jazz. The music which is discussed here. May have come from the French jaser—to chatter. May have come from Jasbo Brown—a dancer.
The 1920's was declared the Age of "Jazz."

Jazz Box. a jazz guitar.
The Ibanez PM model was developed in conjunction with Pat Metheny to meet his demand for a true "jazz box"

Jitterbug. A jumpy, jittery energetic dance or one who danced this dance during the swing period.
Artie Shaw is a hot clarinetist. He sure has all of the "jitterbugs" jumpin.'

Jive. A versatile word which can be used as a noun, verb or adjective. Noun—an odd form of speech. Verb—to fool someone. Adjective—phoney or fake.
Old Satchmo can lay down some crazy "jive." Don't "jive"me man, I wasn't born yesterday. That cat is one "jive" dude.

JAMF (Jive A—Mother F----R). Someone who is not thought highly of.

Joe Below. A musician who plays under-scale.
How can you expect to make a buck when "Joe Below" almost plays for free?

Jump. To swing.
Let's check out that bar over there. It sounds like the joint is "jumpin.'"

Junk. Heroin.
"Junk" and booze have laid a heavy toll on Jazz.

Kill. To fracture or delight.
You "kill" me, man, the way you're always clowning around.

Lame. Something that doesn't quite cut it.
Some of the cats that claim to be playin' Jazz these days are layin' down some "lame" music.

Licks, hot licks. An early term for phrase or solo.
Louie can really lay down some "hot licks."

Licorice Stick. Clarinet
Gee, Jody, doesn't it "chill 'ya" the way Benny plays that "licorice stick"?

Lid. Hat.
Hey man, nice lid.
"Lid" has also entered the world of hip-hop slang via a company called Ultimate Lids that makes hats.

Moldy Fig. During the Bop era, fans and players of the new music used this term to discribe fans and players of the earlier New Orleans Jazz.
What do you expect, Eddie is a "moldy fig" and he'll never dig the new sounds.

Muggles. One nickname for marijuana used by early Jazzmen (Armstrong has a song by this title).
Hey, Louis, I need to calm down. You got any "muggles?"

My Chops is beat. When a brass man's lips give out.
Too many high C's tonight, man, "my chops is beat!!"

Noodlin'—To just play notes that have no particular meaning to a tune or solo.
Quit "noodlin" cat, let's start working the tune.

Out of this world. A superlative which is no longer in common use.
I'm tellin' ya, man, the way Benny Goodman blows is "out of this world."

Out to Lunch. Same as lame.
That guy is "out to lunch," I can't stand the way he plays.

Pad. House, home, apartment or bed.
Hey, Lester, c'mon up to my "pad" you look like you need to cool down.

Popsicle Stick. A saxophonist's reed.
I'm playing a great popsicle stick.

Rock. To swing or jump (as in Jump bands—the fore-runners of Rock and Roll bands).
Louis Jordan's band really "rocks."

Rock and Roll. Of course the new music of the 50's, but originally slang for sex.
Hey, baby, you're drivin' me crazy, let's "rock and roll."

Rusty Gate. Someone who can't play.
That cat swings like a rusty gate.

Sackbut. The Sackbut was a 16th century instrument, similar to the trombone.
The History of the Sackbut

Scat. Improvise lyrics as nonsense syllables. Said to have originated on the "Hot Five" song "Heebie Jeebies" when Louis Armstrong dropped his lyrics.
I can really dig Dizzy's new way of singing "scat."

Scene. A place or atmosphere.
In the late twenties, Armstrong was the man on the New York "scene."

Schmaltz it. Play it "long-haired."

Schmaltz or Schmalz. It's the Yiddish word for chicken fat, and has been a slang term in the U.S. since the '20s for anything sickeningly sweet or "greasy," especially music or poetry.
That Lombardo guy is popular, but he sure plays a lot of "schmaltz."

Scratch. (see Bread)
I need to get my axe fixed, but I got no "scratch."

Screwin' the Pooch. Really bad mistakes while playing music.
Roscoe must've had a bad day, cause he's really "screwin' the pooch."

Send. to move or to stimulate.
Roscoe, you really "send" me.

Sharp. Fashionable.
Hey, Rufus, that's one "sharp" looking suit of clothes you're sportin' there.

Sides. Records.
We sat around and dug "sides." Or, as George Crater (or was it Ira Gitler?) once put it, "I sat around with another musician and Doug Sides." ~ Bob Blumenthal

Skins player. The drummer. (Skins comes from the days when cowhide or other dried animal skin was used to make drum heads.)
Man, we were all ready to have a little improv jam session but our "skins player" skipped out on us. There's one cat that I'm gonna skin!

Smokin'. Playing your ass off.
I can already tell from outside that Jimmy is "smokin'" tonight.

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