Posted on February 17th, 2014 4 comments
(Translation: Let’s take a history lesson from 1955)
Hep talk, Jive, hipster lingo…It all started with jazz musicians back in the 1920s and 30s. It’s generally accepted that “jive” started as a kind of code, especially to warn your fellow musicians about an impending police raid on the speakeasy you happened to be playing in that night. From there it took off into just a cool way for these kats (musicians) to differentiate themselves from the squares, and from there is took off into any USA culture click that considered themselves gone, out, way out, and in possession of a coolness that the cubes could never dig. Dig?
Sent to me 20 years ago through a very un-hip but easy-to-use channel, “email”, this is a list of the hippest words with their American translation. I’m not sure, but I believe this dictionary was originally printed in Mad Magazine, c. 1955
ABE’S CABE – a five dollar bill
BIG GEORGE – a quarter
BLAZE – to go
BLOOD – wine
BREAD – money
BRIGHT – day
BROWN ABE – a penny
CHEATERS – eye glasses
CHLOROPHYLL GEORGE – a dollar
COOL – nice
CRAZY – odd
CRIB – house
CUBE – 3-D square
CUT – make fun of
CUT OUT – leave
DIG, TO DIG – to understand
DUCE – a two dollar bill
ENDS – money
FLICKS – movies
FLIP – react enthusiastically
GONE – wonderful
GREASE – eat
HENCHMEN – friends
HOLLYWOOD EYES – cute girls
HUB CAP – important fellow
JAMS – bop records
JELLY TOT – young hub cap
LATER – I’ll see you
LAY DEAD – wait
MAN – opening word when addressing a kat
MAN, MY – friend, comrade
MAN, THE – Stan Kenton
NOD – sleep
NOWHERE – condition of a cube
OUT, THE OUTEST – best
PLAYER – popular fellow
QUIT, QUIT IT – leave
RANCH – house
RANK – stupid
SCARF – eat
SCROUNGY – bad
SIDES – bop records
SILVER JEFF – a nickel
SILVER WING – a half dollar
SLAMMER – door
SONNET – radio commercial
SPLASH – rain
SPLIT – to go
SQUAT – sit
SQUARE – one who is nowhere
STOMPERS – shoes
STONED – ecstatic
STROLLER – car
STRUGGLE – dance
THIN ONE – dime
TICKS – minutes
TUNES – bop records
TURKEY – square
WASTED – broke
WHEELS – car
WILD – nice
YARD, A YARD – a hundred dollars
Dig it how some of these terms are still cool today, like ‘dig’ and ‘cool’, along with ‘scarf’, ‘player’, ‘crib’ and ‘jams’. I also particularly dig that “The Man” is Stan Kenton (see previous post). Well, it’s a bop dictionary, after all.
Compare to the 1958 “COOL” Magazine Hipster Dictionary, one that was more for the masses, not so much for Bop jazzers. Some common ground, of course, but a lot more words for ordinary things. Bop musicians didn’t need so many words. They said very little, saving their strength to play all those notes in their complicated Bop charts. Wild, man, wild.
-Guest Post by Zoot Jackson, Gobble Pipe blower and swingin’ kat extraordinaire.
Posted on May 26th, 2011 No comments
Skip the groove to 20 years later. Miles. Parker. Gillespie. Yeah.
He was bop. He was Jazz. He could swing or play it straight, hot or cool, but cool was his gig.
Then there was the horse, the big white horse galloping through his veins. It killed his friend, Bird. He quit cold turkey and never looked back.
Modern Jazz. Progressive. Funk-Fusion. He did it all.
Birth of the Cool, Kind of Blue, Seven Steps To Heaven, Miles Smiles. He swung with the times, but always came back to his true Jazz roots.
Miles left this planet on September 28, 1991, too soon, too soon. But he left plenty for us to dig.
Hard bop, Walkin’
Footprints, 1967…Times were Changin’.
One of my favorites, Bye Bye Blackbird, 1955 (no video)
–Zoot Jackson, from the lounge
Posted on May 2nd, 2010 1 comment
(Cue mid-tempo jazz bassline)
Lay back kats, and knock your swingin’ lobes to the riffs I’m layin’ down before thee; as this week we dance to the tune of a different bongo-ist, take a beat off the beaten path and give Mod Movie Monday a little twist – a foray into the land of the groove tube, the noise box, the all-mighty television. This week I present to you for your hippest approval, that hippest of hip private dicks,
There has never been, nor shall there ever be an equally jazzy, kool and quintessentially hip cop show on the airwaves. From the opening, pre-credit crime scene with swingin’ background bass and eerie horns, to the slick late ’50s ragtop that Gunn motorvated around in, to the sultriest if sultry atomic blonde bombshells Edie Hart as the jazz joint’s singer, Peter Gunn just oozes with dark kool.
Imagine a cop show where the PI is a tough, good-looking Rat-Pack-era swinger who’s always in total control, even when he pushes the line between legit and vigilante. Instead of driving a cop sedan, he drives a sleek convertible. He dresses sharp and hangs out at a jazz club with the musicians and has a thing going with the smokin’ girl singer, a swingin’ chick if ever there was one. Throw on top of that the fact that he’s a damned good detective, and his notoriety helps him gain the potatoes he needs to lead his swingin’ lifestyle, and you’ve got the makings of one hell of a TV series – good enough to last 114 episodes.
Thanks to our pal Blake Edwards, the style of the show holds up 50 years later. A Noir undertone driven by a jazz beat and purposely subtle acting, Peter Gunn is considered one of the best stylistic TV dramas of the time.
The Jazz, man, it’s all about that swingin’ background jazz, the musical soundtrack that very often came out of the background and coolly slid into the spotlight whenever Gunn entered Mother’s Jazz Club on the waterfront. Several scenes featured the hipster musicians getting in the groove with their sexy singer, Edie, riffing out tunes by Henry Mancini, played in the style of The Modern Jazz Quintet and Dave Brubeck. Peter Gunn is credited as being
the first TV show to have a custom designed soundtrack (all others used stock music up until then), and the resulting Peter Gunn album stayed at #1 on the charts for 10 weeks (and is still a best seller today). That unforgettable theme has been used so many times since then that even kids who never heard of the show know that krazy piano intro and those blaring horns. Oh, and by the by…that piano intro…was originally played by another kat you may have heard of, a young pup by the name of John Williams.
Style aside, the series was ahead of its time in the ’50s, and still holds up as great to watch today. The crimes were never sugar-coated…murder, drugs, all of it right out there lightened only by an occasionally funny hipster character who was so way out there you had to chuckle. In my opinion, the only thing that would have made this show better was if they didn’t have to squeeze it into a half hour. An hour would have done it much more justice.
And what beat-era libations and repast doth thou deal out during said performance? ’50s hipsters were all about trying new things…which of course, are now old things. Maybe some cucumber sandwiches, with sour cream/dill dipping sauce. Maybe some mini spinach quiches wrapped in bacon. Pretzel rods with mustard. Finger sandwiches of smoked oysters or salmon spread. Kooky stuff like that. Serve Port, or Sambucca, or Galliano over the rocks. Or if you can get your hands on it, Absinth. Top it off with fresh pineapple, mango and coconut over vanilla ice cream for dessert. And don’t forget to smoke a pack of Camels before the show ends, dig?
Posted on April 30th, 2010 3 comments
As Jazz Appreciation Month (suitably monikered “J.A.M”) comes down to the last few bars, I thought I throw in a few riffs of my own.
My take on Jazz Appreciation: Most people who don’t like jazz have two main complaints: There are no words, and a lot of it sounds all the same. Well kids, jazz does have words, as vocalists the likes of Ella Fitzgerald to Mel Torme to Billie Holiday to Dean Martin can attest to.
As for the sounds…Here’s the deal, in my humble opinion… you can’t really appreciate jazz until you see and hear it live, see the musicians play,watch them pour their soul into a solo, see the sweat drip off them as they strain to push that perfect blue note out of a horn. There’s a dynamic in watching jazz live that you just don’t get from an album. Remember, this music was invented when recording was a novelty. These guys played live, and that was their life. Once you see jazz kats jam in person, then you can get hip to the recordings, because instead of hearing a bunch of notes getting thrown around, you catch the real drift the players are laying down. That’s Jazz Appreciation. Can you dig it? yeahhhh.
Now, a little bit about jazz and me, for any of you kats and kittens who might be in the mood for a little story. I added this recording of me playing Take the A-Train on the Tenor Sax just for fun. I’m a little rusty but hey, after 2 drinks I sound great!
The first jazz song I ever remember hearing was a sort of modified version of All Blues (Miles Davis). It was on Sesame Street, a goofy cartoon skit with a jazzy triangle and a square. (see it here on YouTube). Even at that early age, something clicked.
My old man was into Progressive Jazz (Modern Jazz, Traditional Jazz) and turned me onto some kool players like Miles Davis and Sonny Stitt. At around the same time, my Grandfather introduced me to the music of the Big Bands – Miller, Dorsey, Goodman, Shaw. He gave me my first Big Band record, Star Dust by Artie Shaw. That tune has followed me all my life.
When I was around 11, I decided I wanted to play an instrument. I didn’t know much about jazz other than what I was hearing on the Muppet Show, when kats like Dizzy Gillespie would star. First I wanted to play the trombone. Then I heard a Harry James record (I’ve Heard That Song Before) and decided the trumpet was for me. I sold my small coin collection and bought a King Cleavland (still have it). I didn’t want to take lessons – wanted to figure it out myself. I couldn’t get much sound out of it, but tried like hell anyway. Then one day my old man came home with a clarinet. It was missing some keys in the low register, and the reed was held on with electrical tape.
Turned out to be a very old horn, a turn-of-the-century job. Bought a ligature and a new reed, and started getting some sound out of it. Not long after I picked up a cheap student clarinet in good shape, and started playing along with records, matching the sounds. Still couldn’t play a melody, but I was at least getting sound out of all the holes. Then, on a warm summer day in 1982, while walking around a flea market with my grandmother I came across a vintage licorice stick in great condition for 15 bucks. I convinced grandmom to lay out the dough for it, and that was the start of something big. I swear, that horn is magic. Magic in the real sense – for after fiddling around with it for just a few days, I sat down on my bed and made an attempt to play a song…first few notes…sounded wrong…changed the fingering…and just like that, I was playing Moonglow, in a way that would have made Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman proud.
Soon after I got an alto sax, then a tenor, and taught myself how to play them just like the old-time kats did back in the 20s. I never learned to read music too well, just enough to get by in the college big band but not enough to hurt me none. I play from the heart, I play what I feel. I can play solo or with a group of kats and the better they are, the better I am. I played professionally during the 90s, and after swinging down to the Sunshine State in 2000 decided to play only for myself. I still dig the standards, bossas, latin jazz and bop. Never really got into fusion, but can appreciate what the kats were doing at the time. In the early 90’s someone turned me on to Dexter Gordon, and that got me into post-bop Modern Jazz more than ever.
Today I continue to listen, learn and play. I’m still discovering players and songs from the 70+ years of great jazz, from Louis Armstrong to Louis Prima, from Duke Ellington to Charlie Parker. I’ve been blessed to have seen a few of the greats in person; I’ve been lucky to have watched some of the legacy bands like Miller’s and Count Basie’s carry on the tradition. I saw Duke Ellington’s son, then his grandson lead the Ellington band. I sat in Atlantic City lounges and got to experience Sam Butera and the Wildest from five feet away. And once, for just a few minutes, I got to meet and talk with Wyinton Marsalis. Man, I am one lucky son of a gun.
-Zoot Jackson keeping it kool at the Tiki Bar.
Tiki Lounge Talk, the Retro Blog for Swingin’ Hipsters who dig the Tiki Culture Beat.
Posted on December 28th, 2009 5 comments
What better way to ring in the New Year than with the greatest New Year’s Eve movie to ever hit the silver screen,
Ocean’s 11, the first (and quintessential) Rat-Pack flick.
The characters in this movie define cocktail-era cool better than anyone…and they should, as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop practically invented the essence of mid-century coolness, and pretty much play themselves in this liquor-soaked tale.
Enter Danny Ocean, the cocky, live-for-the-moment cat who gets a crazy idea in his head to get his old army buddies together to knock-over five Vegas Strip casinos for fun and profit. Using his charm, he talks his (otherwise mostly straight-up) pals into embarking on this rather ballsy scheme. They make the plan over billards and drinks, and make ready to pull it off on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight. I won’t give any more away, in case you ain’t seen it for yourself as of yet.
Here’s some Trivia (More here at IMDB):
This flick combines the best the cocktail era has to offer: On-location shots of Vegas, plus cool cars, lots of booze, broads, and songs by Martin and Davis. (But funny enough, not Sinatra)
It is rumored that when Peter Lawford brought the idea to Sinatra, Ole Blue Eyes said, “Forget the movie, let’s pull the job!”
Shirley McClaine ad-libbed her entire cameo. Her payment was a new car.
Vegas ‘law’ at the time mandated African Americans could not stay in the major hotels. When they tried to make Sammy Davis Jr. stay at a “colored only” motel, Frank stepped in and strong-armed the casino into letting him stay there. This pretty much led to the end of segregation in Vegas Hotels.
Dean Martin’s movie version of “Ain’t That a Kick in The Head” , featuring Red Norvo on vibes, was much different (but just as cool) as the swingin’ big band version released on vinyl.
PS: For those of you who are thinking of the remake with George Clooney and Brad Pitt…Hey, I think Clooney is just great…but he ain’t no Sinatra. See the original.