Jazz slang or lingo: smokin’, playing the skins, clams, licorice stick, hot licks, jam session, head arrangement, gig, dig, cool – and many, many more.

One could easily write an essay on any of them – but I’m going to take a brief look at three here this month; three that seem to me to be very much inter-related. I should note that I haven’t found any verification of any kind that supports that view – so hang in while I take a crack at it.

Harry spent hours in the woodshed, with his axe working on his chops.

Translation:

Harry spent hours practicing on his guitar developing his ability to play it well.

As I said I find nothing specific that indicates that these terms grew up together, but it seems logical – wouldn’t you use an axe to chop in the woodshed?

A little closer look:

Woodshed – it apparently meant a place where one could practice without being too much of a both to other people – a private place. It’s even become a verb: Harry was woodshedding.

Axe – probably began with the saxophone (the sound of sax), or, perhaps from a player ‘swinging’. It soon came to be applied to any instrument.

chops

Chops – from use of the jaw and lips to play those instruments. It takes strong “chops” to make a good embouchure. The reference of “chops” to lips is old–it predates jazz by a long way. And, like axe, it now applies to one’s ability with any instrument.