Doctor Dee on Jazz

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.


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 – 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.

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